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Author: Subject: When Chemistry Goes Wrong
Godrick VanHess
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[*] posted on 29-9-2019 at 18:14


Wasn't really chemistry, but I was condensing lead scraps by making ingots when I dropped a wet piece of lead in the pot. Needless to say I looked like the tin man for a while. Didn't hurt as bad as you would imagine, though I can't recommend this method for putting on weight.



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woelen
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[*] posted on 9-1-2020 at 12:02


This evening I had a really unpleasant experience. I ordered 500 ml of 99.5% pure butyric acid. I received the acid in a plastic bottle (HDPE). When unpacking the parcel, I noticed that this bottle is very smelly. I decided to move the acid to a glass bottle and discard the plastic bottle. I put the glass bottle in the sink in my lab and carefully poured the acid in the glass bottle. I, however, by accident poured a ml (at most!) along the outside of the glass bottle. I continued pouring the rest of the acid in the glass bottle. There was an awful smell, but the acid is not nearly as pungent as acetic acid, so I decided to continue. Afterward, I took a paper tissue and wiped the sink and the outside of the bottle and dumped the paper and the plastic bottle in a bin, outside. The sink I rinsed with lots of water and flushed with dilute ammonia afterwards.

But now I am smelling of vomit all over my body, especially my hands have a strong smell of vomit. It is a few hours ago, and I still have a strong smell on my hands. I already changed clothes and I think that the rest of my body now is free of odour, but my hands have a REALLY horrible smell. You can smell them from half a meter distance! I already washed my hands with soap and water and even washed them in 0.5% ammonia and rinsing them with a lot of water afterwards. Nothing helps.

I have no other adverse effects (butyric acid is not particularly toxic and as long as you don't touch the pure or concentrated liquid it also is fairly benign to skin and clothes), but the smell is really awful. The vapor of this clings to fabric and skin.

I am afraid that this purchase is not the best one I did. I can even smell it through the cap on the glass bottle (or do I now have the smell in my nose as well???). I now am very reluctant to open that bottle again for experiments (I intended to use this acid for ester experiments). I knew of the bad smell, but it is MUCH worse than I ever could imagine. I hope that the smell will have gone tomorrow morning when I need to go to work again.




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DavidJR
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[*] posted on 9-1-2020 at 12:50


I have a 250ml bottle of butyric anhydride. I got it back when I could order from Sigma - I seem to remember it being cheaper or about the same price as butyric acid itself, and obviously the anhydride is more versatile. Anyway, the smell of the anhydride is unpleasant but it is not very strong nor is it as bad as the acid. So if you spill a drop the smell gets worse before it gets better (as the anhydride hydrolyses).
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[*] posted on 9-1-2020 at 13:14


Hi woelen, while I was studying university I usually had some side-jobs during summer holidays after finishing all exams before new academic year started. One of the jobs was in a distillery which also produced vinegar (by oxidative fermentation of diluted ethanol, 13 % vinegar from reactors was diluted to 8 % and then bottled). My skin and hair were always soaked with smell of acetic acid for at least half a day, nothing helped like washing etc, nothing, just waiting... The distillery processed molasses into spirit, citric acid, vinegar (from ethanol) and whoever knows what else too (yeah plastic bottle from granulate were made too in one building and sent via tube transport system into vinegar building). Oh yes, the distillery produced also some yeast, with terrible smell too...
I have 3x 1 L bottles of butyric acid right now in stock and luckily all in glass bottles, but the first one came in plastic so I transferred it into glass. The plastic bottle did not yet lose its scent after already few months. The same with pentanoic (valeric) acid which came in 1 L plastic bottle. Hexanoic acid came in 1 L glass bottle and from another buy 3 small plastic bottles of 35 mL (I let it them in plastic though, it was not worth to transfer such small volumes into glass).
The valeric and butyric acids were not only in plastic bottle, but the bottles were also in thick evacuated well sealed plastic bags. The empty spaces in carton box were filled with foam foil, the foil is still smelling like vomits after few months till today and the strength seems to be the same.
But the human skin regenerates (unlike plastics) so you'll be OK soon (vinegar disappeared after half a day, butyric acid very likely slightly slowlier due to higher b.p. and better solubility in lipids of skin).
It won't last longer than for 1 month certainly :D :D :D which is usual time of the whole epidermis regeneration/renewal (3 days in psoriasis vulgaris lesions of skin). Depends on how deep did it enter your skin.
Surprisingly the concentrated smell of C4-C6 aliphatic monocarboxylic acids was not so terrible for me (I sniffed directly opened bottles and OK, not using only flapping hand as is necessary for concentrated solution of ammonia in water, directly the bottle, and it was not so bad as I expected), but the worse is diluted smell at very low concentrations. Perhaps the high concentrations benumbed my sense temporarily and thus I'm saying concentrated smell of C4-C6 aliphatic monocarboxylic acids is less terrible than diluted?
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woelen
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[*] posted on 9-1-2020 at 13:33


I have the same experience with dilute smell. When I was pouring the acid, the smell was strong, but not as unpleasant as later on. The biggest problem is that I do not get used to the smell. I remain actively aware of the presence of the smell all the time.



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[*] posted on 9-1-2020 at 14:23
Armstrong's Mixture


Like woelen I didn't realize the sensitivity
of that mixture until it blew up in my face.
No real serious injury. Also no eyebrows
for quite some time.




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[*] posted on 9-1-2020 at 22:34


At one point I was doing a sodium cyanide synth from cyanuric acid. This requires a hot melt to get the reaction to progress, or so I understood at the time. Thinking the reaction wouldn't start until the reactants started melting I premixed the dry powders before moving them into my lab area where I was prepared to handle the reaction. While getting other parts ready I thought I heard a faint hissing noise and realized it came from the reaction mix. The reaction was exothermic and the contract of the grains of powder provided enough surface area to start heating and melting the reactants on its own and it was a mad dash with a stock pot to get it to a safe place to handle it
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[*] posted on 13-1-2020 at 00:06


Quote: Originally posted by woelen  
I have the same experience with dilute smell. When I was pouring the acid, the smell was strong, but not as unpleasant as later on. The biggest problem is that I do not get used to the smell. I remain actively aware of the presence of the smell all the time.

The smell of the butyric acid lingered for more than 24 hours, but now it is gone.
The next day, I showered and this led to removal of the smell from my hands, but in the course of an hour or so, the smell returned, albeit vaguely. Apparently there still was some in my skin, which again slowly evaporated. Another day later the smell was gone completely.




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DavidJR
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[*] posted on 13-1-2020 at 00:21


I wonder how butanal compares.... I've got some on order now.
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