The first full week in February is National Burn Awareness Week, and we would like to mention the hazards of flammable classroom chemicals.

School science labs have an assortment of chemicals on hand for experiments and demonstrations. Some may be of very little risk to handle, but others could cause serious injuries and even death if handled improperly or misused.

Flammable chemicals are most commonly used as solvents such as acetone, ethanol, ethyl acetate, and methanol. It is the vapors that are flammable. Never use any type of open flame or source of ignition around these chemicals when being opened because when a person opens a bottle of flammable liquid, the vapors are first thing to leave the bottle from the top of the bottle.

Some chemicals or incompatible with each other meaning concentrated forms of chemicals that react with each other will produce very exothermic reactions that can be violent and explosive. They can also release toxic substances such as gases. Extreme caution and care needs to be used when handling, storing, or disposing of a combination of these chemicals.

Below are a few incompatible chemicals:

Incompatible Chemicals
Acetic acid Nitric acid, peroxides, permanganates
Acetic anhydride Ethylene glycol, hydroxyl-group-containing compounds
Acetone Hydrogen peroxide
Ammonium Nitrate Acids, flammable liquids, powdered metals, finely divided organic or combustible materials
Chlorate salts, such as sodium or potassium chlorate Acids, ammonium salts, metal powders, finely divided organic or combustible materials
Chlorine Ammonia, butane, hydrogen, turpentine, finely divided metals
Copper Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrocarbons Bromine, chlorine, peroxides
Hydrogen peroxide Combustible materials, copper, iron, most metals and their salts, any flammable liquid
Iodine Ammonia
Nitric acid, concentrated Acetic acid, acetone, alcohol, flammable substances, such as organic chemicals
Oxalic acid Silver, mercury
Oxygen Flammable materials, hydrogen, oils
Phosphorus, white Air, oxygen
Potassium permanganate Ethylene glycol, glycerol, sulfuric acid
Sodium (Alkali metals: lithium, sodium, and potassium) Carbon dioxide, water, alcohols
Sodium nitrite Ammonium salts
Sulfuric acid Chlorates, perchlorates, permanganates


If an incident should arise, it is imperative to know how to correctly put the fire out.

Water only works on ONE CLASS OF FIRE!

Classes of Fires
A Fires involving ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, and some plastics.
B Fires involving flammable liquids, such as alcohols, lamp oils, or butane.
C Fires involving electrical components.
D Fires involving metals, such as aluminum or sodium.
K Fires involving cooking or animal oils, such as frying foods.




Types of Fire Extinguishers  
Type Class of Fire
Dry chemical (multipurpose) A, B, C
Water A ONLY (will not work for other types of fires)
Foam B ONLY (will not work for other types of fires)
Carbon dioxide (not to be

used in confined areas)

B, C
Halon B, C
Metal D
Potassium acetate K

Promote better emergency response to chemical incidents and regulatory efficiency, ease compliance, and reduce costs with a Global Harmonization System (GHS).

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