From: Stephen Stepenuck <sstepenuck**At_Symbol_Here**NE.RR.COM>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Plastic Container Safety Practices
Date: April 30, 2012 2:31:36 PM EDT
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: <4F9ABFC0.04E1.008A.0**At_Symbol_Here**CONTR.NETL.DOE.GOV>

   I am not aware of any written guidelines on this subject, and I agree to some extent with referrals to  compatibility charts as a start, but I agree more with Monona’s opening sentence in her first post on this,  viz. that Joe’s question was not really addressed.

    He is exactly right, that plastic containers do degrade, and can leak or worse.  

    Re what to do about it, for my two cents worth, I would say that the most important course of action here is rather than looking for a written rule, standard, or guideline, start immediately to educate or remind each of your workers about this hazard.  Having once put my thumb through a polyethylene bottle that had become embrittled, I added a check for  suspect plastic containers to my inspection checklist.  By all means refer everyone to compatibility charts, but you might start with a specific case—concentrated nitric acid in a PE container.  Everyone should know better, but...    Adding to the risk, if anyone put an incompatible chemical in this container at any time in the past, this container should have been removed from circulation, but...

    One thing that I tried to add to my employee training sessions was to have a collection of degraded plastic bottles in a box, perhaps  with some water in them.  While you’re talking [and while wearing a glove] pick up one such bottle and squeeze it.  Chances are that you can put your thumb through it, or through one of the set, which makes the point better than a 20-minute lecture.
After that, just give them some help with respect to what to do during their inspections, e.g. look for contents-container incompatibilities, discoloration or darkening, cracking, and performing a gentle squeeze test  [wearing appropriate PPE] on those bottles that are supposed to be  flexible when new.   Those that fail should be tagged and replaced.  Simple year tags placed on new bottles as they purchased could help, as you develop your own in-house guidelines for replacement, for known aggressive chemicals and/or for known labile container materials.

Thanks for reminding us all of this often-overlooked “time bomb.”
P.S. You might remind them about watching for bulging polymeric bottles too..

Stephen J. Stepenuck, Ph.D.
Professor of chemistry emeritus
Keene State College
Keene NH 03435-2001

You wrote:

Hope you can help.  As I'm sure you know, plastic bottles commonly used as secondary containers in chemistry labs can degrade, and then leak or unexpectedly collapse releasing the contents.
Are you aware of a guideline addressing the safe use of plastic containers in chemistry labs in terms of chemical compatibility, service life, and how to evaluate condition?
Joe Damiano CIH CSP
URS / National Energy Technology Lab / DOE
Pittsburgh, PA

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