Hazardous Chemical Storage

Op2.07-6 Hazardous Chemical Storage

Hazardous chemicals must be appropriately stored to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff at the University. Most hazardous chemicals fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • corrosives (acids and bases)
  • flammable
  • toxic
  • reactive
  • radioactive (extremely rare)

Several chemicals are incompatible with each other. Please view the table of specific incompatible chemical combinations.

Corrosive materials should be stored in safety cabinets specifically designed for them. If necessary, they may be stored under a fume hood. Due to fumes that are often present, most concentrated corrosives should only be worked with under a fume hood as well.

Organic acids, such as acetic and formic acids should not be stored with inorganic acids such as hydrochloric and nitric acids. Organic acids may react violently with inorganic acids potentially resulting in dangerous fumes and fires. If it is necessary to store them in cabinets that also contain inorganic acids, they will need to be separated by using spill trays or buckets to prevent mixing.

Some inorganic acids should be separated from each other as well. Nitric acid should be isolated when stored. Hydrofluoric acid is considered a highly acute toxin and should only be accessed by authorized personnel and in plastic containers. Hydrofluoric acid can dissolve glass. Sulfuric and perchloric acids should be placed in their own trays and stored alone.

Hydrochloric acid, hydrobromic acid, chromic acid, phosphoric acid, chlorosulfonic acid and hydriodic acid may all be stored in the same tray.

Acids and bases should be stored separately from each other because of the possibility of violent reactions and/or fumes. Ammonium hydroxide specifically can give off ammonia gas when reacting with acids. Ammonia gas can be dangerous at high levels.

Large quantities of flammable chemicals should be stored in safety cabinets specifically designed for flammable materials. Small bottles (500ml or less) of chemicals such as acetone or alcohol that are used frequently can be stored on counters and shelves, but should not be stored near heat sources.

Toxic materials should be stored safely and away from potential food sources. Toxic materials should be restricted to authorized personnel and kept in secured areas. Highly acute toxins should be locked away in secure areas. If possible, an alternative substance should be used to reduce the risk of exposure.

Reactive chemicals often have unique hazards associated with them. Some of these substances must be stored in refrigerators near or even below, freezing temperatures. Others may need to be kept in desiccators or in sealed containers to avoid contact with air or water. Some reactive chemicals will need to be stored in separate containers or shelves to avoid the chance of being accidentally mixed with other chemicals. Check the SDS for each substance to determine the best way to store these chemicals.

Radioactive materials require special measures and normally special licensing for use. Please refer to Radioactive Materials License Requirements for more information.

In general, consult the SDS forms for individual hazardous chemicals to determine the best way to store them safely. If you have additional questions, please contact the Environmental Management department.