Difference between revisions of "Suspicious chemicals"

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==See also==
==See also==
*[[Regulatory quirks]]

Latest revision as of 14:46, 14 June 2019

In many localities, the purchase of certain chemicals is monitored in an attempt to crack down on the manufacture of illegal drugs and explosives. Other hazardous chemicals are also watched. This article will attempt to list watched chemicals by locality.


In spite of having a reputation for a restrictive environment for home chemists and a high degree of regulation, the laws pertaining to amateur chemistry are rather loosely defined. Instead, a code of practice exists regarding the commercial sale of chemicals and lab equipment. From the Code of Practice for Supply Diversion into Illicit Drug Manufacture,

The National Code of Practice is voluntary with the expectation of self-regulatory arrangements between industry membership, law enforcement agencies and the community. Industry members should be aware, however, that Federal and/or State governments will formalise such guidelines through legislation or regulations if they consider there is insufficient support or adherence under these existing self-regulatory arrangements.

In summary, there is little that a legitimate home chemist would need that is actually illegal to own. There is much however that is watched by law enforcement agencies. Sales of certain chemicals and equipment within the country are monitored. Customs officials monitor imports and alert federal police when they encounter anything that might raise suspicion.

The most common thing that an amateur chemist will encounter is an End User Declaration (EUD). This document must be completed to purchase certain items from commercial suppliers. It is important to note that the EUD is actually a regulation targeting suppliers and not users. The result is that many suppliers will not sell to non-commercial entities or will simply not sell some chemicals and equipment.

The second most common thing an amateur chemist can expect is a "friendly visit" from police if they learn from customs that watched items have been purchased. Undoubtedly these visits transform into raids and arrests if clandestine drug labs are encountered. Anecdotal accounts from ScienceMadness members indicate that, for a legitimate hobbyist, the visit involves an interview and a cursory inspection to confirm that the home lab is not being used for illicit activity.

The main concern is the manufacture of illicit drugs but precursors for energetic compounds are also watched. Relevant documentation and legislation includes:

Code of Practice for Supply Diversion into Illicit Drug Manufacture

The Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Acts 1989 and 1990


Canada has few restrictions on glassware and other lab equipment. Various lab reagents can be purchased in many places, NileRed had no problem acquiring Sigma, Alfa and Fischer reagents from a local store. In recent years however, the sale of many reagents is becoming more restricted. The sale of pure nitrates is restricted to general public. Red P


Although people from other countries can buy many reagents and lab equipments (or even labs) from China, due to excessive government regulation, it's difficult for the average citizen to pursue home chemistry. There are many regulations for many basic reagents, like acids and oxidizers.

However, if you know the right people, it's possible to acquire most of what you need.

European Union

The EU has placed in recent years several regulations and restrictions on many chemicals. However, the enforcing of the restrictions varies from each state member.

The most infamous is the ban for dichloromethane use in paint strippers and adhesive removers, which was adopted in 2009. Most EU countries have complied with the rule, however, in many EU Eastern European countries such as Poland[1][2], Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, DCM paint strippers and even adhesive removers can still be found in certain small hardware stores, or in the case of Poland, even in big stores.


Many compounds that are considered toxic, can only be acquired with a special poisons permit.[3]


Most basic reagents can be easily obtained, though many strong oxidizers need a permit.


Basic reagents are difficult to acquire and the more "hazardous" ones may need a permit. Manufacturing and use of as little as 10 g of energetic materials will invite a visit from the police.


Except for very dangerous or hazardous chemicals, which require permit or license, depending on the type, there aren't many restrictions on reagents or lab equipment.


Many common reagents are either somewhat difficult to find in pure form, or are expensive. Oxidizers like nitrates are monitored due to their potential use in criminal activities, as are many explosive precursors. Aromatic solvents like toluene, as well as many halogenated solvents are restricted to the general public.


There appear to be no restrictions on most lab equipment. Most common chemicals can be bought from hardware stores, though drug and explosive precursors are monitored.


The Precursors Monitoring Act (Grundstoffüberwachungsgesetz) classifies drug precursors in three categories, 1, 2 and 3.[4]

Category 1 substances are classified as direct/raw precursors to drugs. All activities related to said compounds, such as manufacture, use and import are subjected to regulations from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte) and fail to comply is considered criminal offense.

Category 2 substances are classified as being used in the illicit manufacture of drugs, but have other legitimate use and are only subjected to regulations over a certain amount, though their use might be monitored. The list considers the following compounds and their maximum permitted amount:

  • Anthranilic acid - 1 kg
  • Acetic anhydride - 100 l
  • Potassium permanganate - 100 kg
  • Phenylacetic acid - 1 kg
  • Piperidine - 0.5 kg

Category 3 substances are classified reagent used in the manufacture of illegal drugs, but have many OTC uses, such as cleaning, fuel additives, pH treatment. Unlike Cat. 2, Cat. 3 are not considered basic or starting materials, but rather excipients. They have limited to no restrictions for their domestic use, however they are subjected to limits when it comes to exporting them to other countries, mostly third world countries that are known to show high activity for illicit drug manufacture.

  • Acetone - 50 kg
  • Diethyl ether - 20 kg
  • Methyl ethyl ketone - 50 kg
  • Toluene - 50 kg
  • Sulfuric acid - 100 kg
  • Hydrochloric acid - 100 kg

The police are known to search for explosive and explosive precursors.


Most common reagents can be bought from hardware stores, few restrictions apply to OTC chemicals.

Methanol is banned, due to its use in counterfeit alcohol which caused deaths in the past.

Purchasing large amounts or nitrates may require license.


In recent years, most useful reagents, such as acetone, ammonia, sodium hydroxide have almost vanished from the shelves and are being replaced by "green" products. Most however, contain other products that one would hardly consider them more safe or less harmful than the reagent is supposed to replace.


OTC chemicals can be easily purchased from stores, though since 2011 there are restrictions on fertilizers and explosive precursors. Chemicals that are labeled as "poisonous" require a permit from police, though you might need to have a small business for that.


Basic reagents are relative easy to acquire, as are most lab equipment. Drug and explosive precursors require license, however.


Acids and most solvents can be freely and easily bought from stores, and there aren't restrictions on lab equipment.


Few restrictions on lab equipment and reagents, and most basic chemicals are OTC.


While it's possible to acquire many reagents, some, like conc. sulfuric acid are not sold to the public, while nitrates are monitored.


Few regulations regarding lab equipment and reagents, though little information is present about drug and explosive precursors.


Not many restrictions to lab equipment and most reagents, but it's difficult to find a good domestic supplier.


No restrictions on lab equipment. There aren't many restrictions on basic reagents, though energetic materials may raise an eyebrow.


Due to the extremely tough drug laws in SE Asia, it's extremely risky to pursue amateur chemistry in this country. Most common and basic reagents aren't easy to acquire, and OTC acids are diluted. Oxidizers are regulated and require hard to get permits. Manufacturing and use of explosives or drugs/drug precursors may carry the death penalty.


While most basic reagents are readily available in most places, due to the Drug war, the acquisition of lab equipment and monitored chemicals may arouse suspicion.

New Zealand

There are no clear restrictions on many common reagents. Nitrate fertilizers, acids, various salts can be easily bought from many stores that sell them, though extremely toxic chemicals, like heavy metals are not readily available.

Russian Federation

The FSKN lists are lists of chemicals used by the Federal Service of Illegal Drug Trade Control of Russia to determine probable cause in a drug lab investigation. Most of these chemicals are sold in restricted quantities to individuals, and the possession or purchase of more than allotted amounts may incite an investigation. Wherever possible use cash to pay for these chemicals, or better yet, avoid them entirely if at all possible or synthesize them clandestinely. A lot of common chemicals such as concentrated mineral acids, THF and potassium permanganate is in the FSKN lists, so an amateur chemist in Russia more or less has to be clandestine.


Few restrictions on OTC chemicals and lab equipment, when available, however chemical companies will not sell to private persons. Many OTC chemicals have been diluted and are of poor quality, depending on the brand. Acquiring permits is a nightmare, due to bureaucracy.


It's relative difficult to acquire most lab equipment, and even many OTC reagents that are readily available in most countries, like NaOH or acids are restricted. The lack of open fields limits the amount of experiments one can do. Energetic materials are a big no-no.


The laws involving chemicals in Switzerland are much less restrictive than in most countries. Category 3 drug precursors are not restricted either by category or quantity, except for exporting. Chemicals that are category 1 and 2 are excepted from any regulations, provided the amount possessed is below 10 g. To possess more than 10 g of precursor, an EUD is required. The only excepted category 1 and 2 precursors that you can own beyond the 10 g threshold are acetic anhydride (100 kg), KMnO4 (5 kg), phenylacetic acid esters (100 g), etc.[5]

United States

The United States has strict surveillance programs that involve many chemicals and types of equipment which are used to manufacture illegal drugs and explosives.

DEA lists

Main article: DEA list of chemicals

The DEA lists are lists of chemicals used by the Department of Justice to determine probable cause in a drug lab investigation. Most of these chemicals are sold in restricted quantities to individuals, and the possession or purchase of more than allotted amounts may incite an investigation. Wherever possible use cash to pay for these chemicals, or better yet, avoid them entirely if at all possible or synthesize them clandestinely.


The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act maintains a huge list of various chemicals which are known to be dangerous, and divided in four main categories:

  • Extremely Hazardous Substances: Releases of these chemicals must be reported immediately
  • Hazardous Substances: Releases of these chemicals above certain amounts must be reported immediately
  • Hazardous Chemicals: Defined by OSHA regulations as chemicals which represent physical or health hazards. Under this definition many thousands of chemicals can be subject to reporting requirements if a facility manufactures, processes, or stores them in certain amounts. Inventories of these chemicals and material safety data sheets for each of them must be submitted if they are present in the facility in certain amounts.
  • Toxic Chemicals: A list containing over 320 chemicals or chemical categories, which were selected by Congress primarily because of their chronic or long-term toxicity. Estimates of releases of these chemicals into all media (air, land, and water) must be reported annually and entered into a national database.

Many vital or important chemicals, like ammonia, bromine, carbon disulfide, chloroform, formaldehyde, hydrazine, conc. hydrogen peroxide (>50%), phenol, sulfuric acid, cyanides, mercury and cadmium salts are included in this list.

List can be found here.


Lab equipment is easy to acquire, but you will need permit for handling acids and oxidizers.

See also


  1. http://www.eascr.com/dcmintheeu.html
  2. http://www.eascr.com/documents/2015.09.07%20DCM%20paint%20stripper%20Poland%20-%20EASCR.pdf
  3. http://www.sciencemadness.org/talk/viewthread.php?tid=525
  4. http://bmg.gv.at/cms/home/attachments/9/0/3/CH1227/CMS1350988898140/information_betreffend_den_handel_mit_drogenausgangsstoffen_%28stand__3_2012%29_%282%29.pdf
  5. https://www.admin.ch/opc/fr/classified-compilation/20101220/index.html

Relevant Sciencemadness threads