How to dispose of xylene & toluene in a laboratory

Written by james rutter
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How to dispose of xylene & toluene in a laboratory
Xylene and toluene are both hazardous materials that must be disposed of properly. (chemical waste image by Antonio Oquias from Fotolia.com)

Technicians commonly use xylene and toluene in a laboratory setting. Hematology labs that test blood rely on both of these chemicals as solvents, while hospital laboratories can use either chemical in preparing tissue specimens and rinsing stains. According to the Occupational and Health Safety Administration (OSHA), exposure to xylene and toluene can result in severe and chronic health conditions such as abdominal pain, nausea, bronchitis and bronchial pneumonia, among others. Properly disposing of these chemicals ensures laboratory and environmental safety.

Skill level:
Challenging

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Things you need

  • Safety goggles
  • Safety gloves
  • Water
  • Sand, dirt or noncombustible absorbent material
  • Nonchlorinated waste disposal containers

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Turn off any sources of ignition or any device that can spark, including hotplates and Bunsen burners. OSHA classifies both xylene and xylene vapour as severe fire hazards. Turn on any ventilation devices, such as overhead laboratory fans or fume hoods, to reduce the risk of xylene vapour combustion (you cannot dispose of xylene vapour this way).

  2. 2

    Put on safety glasses and safety gloves. Xylene and xylene vapour can seep into the skin, eyes, mouth and lungs. Be careful not to inhale any of the xylene vapour. OSHA recommends that those not wearing protective equipment should leave the room.

  3. 3

    Clean up any spills with sand or an absorbent material that does not combust, such as silica gel. Spray the air with water to reduce the risk of fire.

  4. 4

    Place xylene in a nonchlorinated waste container for disposal. Store it outdoors or in an unoccupied building in a fireproof storage unit.

  5. 5

    Call a chemical waste disposal service to remove the container containing xylene. According to Practice Green Health, you must have xylene removed within three days of accumulating more than 250 litres (55 gallons) of this hazardous waste.

  1. 1

    Turn off any sources of ignition or any device that can spark, including hotplates and Bunsen burners. Toluene and toluene vapour are highly flammable.

  2. 2

    Put on safety glasses and safety gloves. Liquid toluene can chemically burn the skin, causing redness, and toluene vapour can damage the eyes. Be careful not to inhale any of the toluene vapour.

  3. 3

    Clean up any toluene spills by covering them with sand, clay, dirt or an organic commercial product. You can allow small spills to evaporate.

  4. 4

    Place toluene in a nonchlorinated waste container for disposal. Store this container in an unoccupied building or outdoors.

  5. 5

    Call a chemical waste disposal service to remove the container containing toluene. According to Practice Green Health, you must have toluene removed within three days of accumulating more than 250 litres (55 gallons) of this hazardous waste.

Tips and warnings

  • Both toluene and xylene are water insolvable. In the event of a fire, use carbon dioxide, foam or dry chemical extinguishers.
  • Immediately rinse the eyes and skin if exposed to toluene or xylene. Flush the eyes with water for fifteen minutes.

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