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Corrosive Chemicals


What Is the Scope of This Guideline?

This guideline identifies general safety precautions that should be reviewed and followed when dealing with corrosive chemicals at Brandeis. They represent a significant hazard because skin or eye contact can readily occur from splashes, and their effect on human tissue generally takes place very rapidly.

Examples of corrosives:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Imidazole
  • 4-Methoxybenzylamine
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Amines
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Bromine
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Corrosive gases and vapors are also extremely hazardous. Examples which can cause severe irritation and bodily injury include:

  • Ammonia
  • Hydrogen chloride
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Sulfur dioxide

How Do I Protect Myself?

Review the material safety data sheet (MSDS) prior to using this material.

Eye Protection
Safety glasses that meet the ANSI Z.87.1 1989 standard should be worn whenever handling corrosive chemicals. Ordinary prescription glasses WILL NOT provide adequate protection unless they also meet this standard. Safety glasses should also be equipped with side shields if there is a possibility of flying particles (i.e., glass, plastics). When there is the potential for significant splash hazards, additional eye/face protection should be worn in the form of goggles or a face shield.

Skin Protection

Gloves should be worn when handling corrosive chemicals. Nitrile gloves should be adequate for handling most of these in general laboratory settings. An MSDS should be reviewed if handling may involve extended or high exposure to lab personnel to ensure adequate skin protection is provided.

In addition, a lab coat or apron is advised if exposure could involve more than normal handling operations would be expected. No open-toe shoes are allowed.

Special Handling

  • Never store corrosive liquids above eye level.
  • Always add acids or bases to water (and not the reverse).
  • Segregate acids and bases in storage.
  • When mixing corrosive solids with water, always slowly add the corrosive solid to the water, stirring continuously. Cooling may also be necessary.
  • If there is a possibility that you may generate a significant amount of dust, conduct work in a fume hood.
  • If the potential exists for explosion or a high thermal reaction, additional shielding should be utilized. This may involve the use of shielding in a glove box or in the case of a fume hood with the sash in the lowest possible position. Portable shields may also be used for additional protection.
  • Store corrosives material away from heat/flames, oxidizers and water sources. Keep containers closed and ensure that manufacturer’s labels and warnings remain intact.

Special Considerations for Corrosive Gases

  • For potentially corrosive gases, perform manipulations of materials that pose an inhalation hazard in a chemical fume hood to control exposure or wear appropriate respiratory protection.
  • Ensure that you protect all exposed skin surfaces from contact with corrosive or irritating gases and vapors.
  • Ensure that regulators and valves of gases are closed when the cylinder(s) are not in use and properly purged and cleaned with dry air or and inert gas such as nitrogen.
  • Ensure that when corrosive gases are to be discharged into a liquid, a trap, check valve or vacuum break device is employed to prevent dangerous reverse flow.

Handling Emergencies Involving Corrosive Chemicals

Anticipate emergency situations, have proper handling equipment in the lab and readily available for spills. Acid and base spill kits are available in the Main Hazardous Waste Accumulation area. Contact the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at ext. 6-4262 or the Hazardous Waste Hotline (Monday/Thursday) at ext. 62561 for access. It is also highly recommended that spill control material/kits be maintained in the lab.

In the event of a spill or adverse reaction, notify lab personnel immediately that an incident has occurred. Do not attempt to handle a large spill/reaction/fire, or one in which you are not trained or equipped for.

Laboratory emergencies should be reported to public safety at ext. 6-3333. Public safety will also contact the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at ext. 6-4262. Communicate the following:

  • Location of spill/incident
  • Type of material involved and quantity
  • Injuries involved
  • Fire/explosion
  • Your location/contact information (or who to contact for further information)

Notify the principal investigator or designated safety officer as soon as possible.

Waste Disposal Requirements

Handling and disposal of corrosive chemicals should be done in accordance with lab protocol established by the principal investigator. 

Aqueous solutions between pH 6.0 to 10.0 may be disposed of down the sink. Contact the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at ext. 6-4262 with any question concerning sink disposal of material other than aqueous solutions described here. The university operates under a discharge permit from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and has specific discharge limits.

Disposal requests should be called into the Waste Hotline at ext. 6-2561.

Decontamination Procedures

Cleanup and decontamination may require the use of neutralizing agents. Review the MSDS for additional guidance and personal protection.