Post Tagged with: "safety chat"

Safety Chat: Nitric Acid Waste

aqua regia

We’re going to be taking time out of our regular blogging schedule to remind everyone about better lab safety practices. Recently at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory someone poured isopropanol into an acid waste container of aqua regia. Aqua regia contains nitric acid, and the reaction for those unfamiliar with nitric acid’s oxidizing power is thus,

$$ \text{C}_3\text{H}_7\text{OH} + \text{HNO}_3 \rightarrow \text{CO}_2 + \text{NO}_2 + \text{H}_2\text{O} \text{ (Good Luck Balancing This One)}$$

Due to the pressure in the waste container, the bottle blew and spewed its golden goodness throughout the room. It fractured the safety sash, and could have really hurt someone.

The lessons you should take home:

  • Get rid of strong oxidizing acid waste as you generate it.
  • Do not trust others near your waste bottles. Don’t let others add to them.
  • If you generate strong acid wastes, probably a good idea that everyone from the undergrads and lab techs to the postdocs are made aware of the incompatibility of organics and nitric acid. You can’t expect chemists to have this knowledge anymore. 🙁


By June 14, 2009 10 comments general chemistry