What precautions must be taken when working with ethanol?

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bandmanjoe | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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When working with any organic compounds, great care must be taken to protect the eyes, by wearing safety glasses.  Protective clothing would be the next important issue, to protect the body and your clothing.  The feet should be protected by wearing shoes and socks that seal the foot and ankle area from injury, should accidents occur.  Last, but not least, the experiment should be done in a well-ventilated area, as some fumes from some reagents may be toxic.

Pure ethanol will irritate the skin and eyes.  Nausea, vomiting, and intoxication are all symptoms of ingestion.  Ethanol is the alcohol present in all alcoholic drinks consumed by humans, and dates back to antiquity.  Long term use by ingestion can result in serious liver damage, resulting in death.  Atmospheric concentration above one in a thousand are above the European Union Occupational exposure limits. 

Ethanol is considered a psychoactive drug.  Death from ethyl alcohol consumption is possible when blood alcohol levels reach .4%  A blood alcohol level of .5% is commonly fatal.


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