Sciencemadness Discussion Board

People working with chloroform without gloves?

jesse13359 - 19-8-2016 at 05:22

Hi all,

I was wondering; on some posts every now and then, I see people writing about that it is better not to use gloves while handling chloroform, as it penetrates your gloves (nitrile) rather this true? I'd say it would be common sense to use gloves...but I'm no expert on this kind of thing.

Also, some say that as it vaporizes very fast, the absorption would be minimal. Is that also true?

Ha, Im very curious about these things as some people I have worked with used gloves when handling chloroform.

Sulaiman - 19-8-2016 at 05:43

Chloroform is only slightly toxic ... it can be used as an anaesthetic

If you work with it industrially then your employer has an obligation to provide training and PPE

if for hobby use, I would not worry about skin contact ... just don't anaesthatise yourself !

From literature, no personal experience, PVA gloves are compatible with chloroform
if not then work bare-handed ... chloroform evaporates so rapidly that you will feel the coldness.

jesse13359 - 19-8-2016 at 05:57

Aha, explains a lot! Wondering why everyone during my internship was still using nitrile gloves though...I'll look into it next time if I get the chance.

Fair enough, if you can work with it bare handed, it means that minor exposure (drop every now and then) is not much of a problem then if you work with it occasionally?

byko3y - 19-8-2016 at 09:14

They work using nitrile gloves because they just don't care. As well as we don't care when working without gloves.

Ozone - 19-8-2016 at 09:31

Nitrile and latex are awful with chlorinated organics! This is especially true for DCM. They are worse than nothing at all because 1. these solvents penetrate the gloves, and 2. the solvent is then held against the skin instead of rapidly evaporating (causing no harm). The result is nasty chemical burns resulting from defatting of the skin. I cannot tell you how many people I have counseled thus...who didn't listen...once.

If you are really worried about it, the aluminized mylar (Silver Shield) is the way to go...but, I've found that they are unwieldy, and make handling small items (most of what's probably in your lab) difficult. This can result in an accident that is far worse than the exposure, so I don't use them, either.


byko3y - 19-8-2016 at 10:11

Funny thing - nobody in institutes and professional organization will stop using latex and nitrile for chlorinated solvents despite the fact they do more harm than good. Another example of marasmatic rules - disposal of picric acid. I've never heard of anybody anywhere on the earth caught be detonation of picrate, unless there were tonns of it reacting eventually with metals or it was a fire.
Nobody gonna question instructions, everybody's gonna wear gloves full of chloroform, everybody's gonna be afraid of picrate explosion. Just as I said - nobody cares.

BromicAcid - 19-8-2016 at 21:56

Quote: Originally posted by byko3y  
Just as I said - nobody cares.

No, people like to believe no one cares because it makes them feel less guilty for taking the easy way out. I have not personally seen an explosion caused by picric acid but I have talked to people who have seen it first hand. In my time working in hazardous waste disposal I also saw a can of ether explode with my own eyes from peroxides, something that many people probably write off as needless worry. But when it comes to gloves, these sorts of chemicals do cumulative damage. Yes, nitrile gloves have horrible breakthrough resistance to chlorinated solvents, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't wear gloves.

Gloves are meant to be a barrier of last resort, you shouldn't be reaching into solids and mashing them up wearing gloves, you shouldn't be sticking your fingers into things and prodding them in chloroform, they are supposed to protect you from the errant drop here or there. And if you have the means then upgrade those gloves to something that works. At my work we use PVA (polyvinyl acetate) gloves which offer excellent protection against chlorinated solvents (and poor resistance to water). Your job is to protect yourself and those around you, not to give up.

@Sulaiman: Chloroform might not be the most dangerous thing in the world but it's not very good for the liver either. As far as I know it is not used as an anesthetic anymore but ether still is in some countries.

jesse13359 - 20-8-2016 at 00:12

You know, the weird thing is that they never taught me or any one else in college about these things. I'm still an undergraduate, but suprisingly enough they never said a word about during my internship as well. Even my instructor was using his gloves all day, and even washing them off in water to use them a second time while working with chemicals such as Toluene, DCE, Chloroform, DMF and other potential carcinogens.

I always felt a bit bad for using like, 10 pair of gloves every day. But now I'm actually glad I did. I've never seen anyone whiping any spills on gloves as well. Although it may not be the most effective thing, I always thought that letting a spill dry up on your gloves isn't such a good idea either. Good thing I never worked with these chemicals regularly.

Anyway, a lot of fellow students have the tendency to think they're immortal while working with potential carcinogens, just because they have gloves on.

Thanks a lot guys, I will keep an eye out for these things :)

EDIT: for the record. My grading is a 9.5/10, so basically I'm quite familiar with the information given. I'm definitely sure they have never ever instructed us about these things at college. :O

[Edited on 20-8-2016 by jesse13359]

[Edited on 20-8-2016 by jesse13359]

NEMO-Chemistry - 20-8-2016 at 00:16

I like the clear plastic gloves, no idea what they are made of. vets use them for sticking their arms up cows arses.

I like them because if you get ones that fit properly they feel like you dont have gloves on, they also go all the way to your arm pits (i cut mine down).

I try and work as if i have no gloves on and every chemical will eat through my skin in nano seconds.

Since doing this (3~ months) i use less reagents and work more tidily.
I wipe acid bottle caps and necks and sides i poured from with damp cloths using bicarb solution.

I try and get no hiss, if i get a hiss i know i have failed to pour without a dribble.

Its over the top and pointless for the things i do, but i do it as a form of training. Maybe one day i will work with something that can bite, i hope by then my way of working is automatic, better to train now than when your holding Olium or something nasty.

Its also a way of slowing down how you work, i find it suits me better and gradually i am getting more organized.

MrHomeScientist - 22-8-2016 at 09:24

NEMO, that is all excellent advice and the perfect way to go about doing it. Great to hear people taking the hobby seriously and taking good safety precautions.

byko3y - 22-8-2016 at 23:48

BromicAcid, there were no incedents with picric acids in a small scale laboratory. Never ever in the history. Zero point zero cases. For a long time nobody even knew it can be explosive. Its critical diameter is so big and it requires a huge initiating charge to explode, you need like 1 g of lead picrate in one place right next to a picric acid charge or to your hand to get some dangerous result.
Ether peroxides are usually soluble in the parent ethers. Phase separation or distillation is required to create a concentrated peroxide.
The thing I really hate in gloves is that they restrict your ability to manupulate things and feel them. In fact, when I was a begginning chemist, I was using gloves for almost everything. But over time I realized, that until you are working with harmful chemicals for 40 hours a week, you can almost completely skip gloves, and even don't use glasses when the reaction is 200% safe, because spill of something like 5% H2SO4 or a drop of NaOH into your eye once in a month will not hurt you in any way. Ammonia, chlorine, bromine, sulfuric acid solution, sulfuric acid aerosol, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen bromide - that's all the stuff I know by the action on my eyes. Once bromine made me incapable of continuing a work (I was wearing glasses though :p).
Gloves might be treated as a last resort, but in 99% cases they are not treat as such and spills are completely ignored. You might know about dimethyl mercury poisonings in laboratories (at least two cases) - those are not some exceptions, but a common case. So, basically, there's not so much difference between me and someone who is forced to wear gloves by rules.
Another class of people who, in fact, also don't care is those who are paranoid about all the chemicals. Those who tell you about such a dangerous, toxic, corrosive chemical as HCl, who puts onto himself a chemical protection suit just to pour a concentrated muriatic acid. Usually they have a very limited experience of working with such dangerous reagents as concentrated sulfuric acid and diethyl ether. They just don't want to know, because they already know everything.
NEMO-Chemistry, I also wipe my bottles, but I prefer to use a pure filter paper, because foreing substances will contaminate the reagent.

[Edited on 23-8-2016 by byko3y]


Sulaiman - 23-8-2016 at 03:50

I realise that you are more experienced than me
but I do believe in wearing eye protection
probably because I had cateract operations on both eyes last year
and I learned the value of sight.
So please, wear eye protection.

Mailinmypocket - 23-8-2016 at 04:10

I can second that. Once a crystal of potassium permanganate flew into my eye when a small pile of it was starting to crackle and pop with ethylene glycol before self igniting. Man that was scary and painful, no lasting damage thankfully...

byko3y - 23-8-2016 at 13:01

Sulaiman, what was the cause of cataract? Nobody of my friends and relatives had cataract. I know one old woman that actually had it, AFAIK, because of trauma on one eye, although she had no operation and now can see well.
Cataract develops slowly and regenerates even more slower. Eyes are fragile, but they have enough protective mechanisms to withstand some harsh conditions. I do have some minor problems with eyes, but I had them before any experience with chemistry because I love PC just too much.

BromicAcid - 23-8-2016 at 14:05

byko3y: Use all the hyperbole and fuzzy logic you want. I hear the same things from people who don't wear safety belts "They do more harm than good" except that chloroform is a probable carcinogen, chloroform does attack the liver, and many chemicals are dangerous. I made phosphorus in my back yard, chloroform too, gassed myself with chlorine pretty good and damn near blinded myself with sodium hydroxide. I wish that I had worn gloves more, I wish I wore goggles more, and now having done this sort of thing for 20 years I see the need to take better care of myself. I had more exposure in a year of back yard chemistry in my youth than five years working in a chemical plant, and here you defend that it might make a difference to a person who works 40 hours a week with these sorts of chemicals but they're much better protected than you are. There is certainly overkill in the world of chemistry, but many times that is born out of tragedy.

[Edited on 8/23/2016 by BromicAcid]


Sulaiman - 23-8-2016 at 14:47

I think that it was caused by me having non-brown irises and enjoying outdoor life in the relatively high uv equtorial regions for decades, without using EYE PROTECTION :P

together with being 60+, my lenses slowly crystalised

byko3y - 23-8-2016 at 18:56

Yea, I hate sunny days. Also, few people think about using sunglasses during winter. Usually I just squint.

Metacelsus - 23-8-2016 at 19:48

"Snow blindness" is definitely an issue, especially at higher elevations.

As for the main topic, I am not comfortable going without goggles in the lab. Working with systems under pressure or vacuum (even Dewar flasks) carries a risk of flying glass shards and chemicals if anything breaks.

For gloves, the lab where I work uses chloroprene. We use a lot of chlorinated solvents such as chloroform, but exposure is minimal because much of the work is done with airfree technique (syringe transfers, etc.)

[Edited on 8-24-2016 by Metacelsus]

NEMO-Chemistry - 24-8-2016 at 02:48

I use kitchen towel as its cheaper than filter paper to wipe bottles. I always have the lids screwed on anyway.

Its become kind of a game, i get pretty upset if i hear a fiz now lol. I started doing all this because i have 2 major problems.

1) I am lazy! If there is a short cut or easy route i take it, so if the goggles were not within easy reach i wouldnt bother.

2) I am clumsy, not sure if its anything to do with being lazy but i tend to drop and spill things, or least i did.

Since 'pretending' everything i use is nasty, my way of working has improved. depending on what i am doing i have a lab coat or a pair of waist height waders!!

The waders i use for clean ups or when using conc sulphuric acid, overkill but i burnt my knees cleaning up sodium hydroxide on the floor.

I clean spills with cat litter now, so rarely need to get down on the floor and rarely spill much, they are handy as i work in the garage alot and it means i can flood the garage floor after and give it a good clean.

So what made me start it? Well ages ago at school we did a biology thing on blood and crime scenes, basically you buy fake blood and work out the blood group etc.

We were using luminol to find the splatters to test (set up like a crime scene), after the exercise the teacher asked why i didnt have my lab coat on. I explained i had forgotten it that day and besides its was all harmeless and i was careful.

He asked me how much i had spilt or got on me, i said i doubted i had a single drop on me! He smiled and got the dark light, stood me in front of a mirror and lit me up!

Man spatters all over me! I lit up like a firework, there were glowing spots all over me and my hands looked nuclear! the only fairly clear place was just around my eyes.

He said to me i should try and think of every chemical as something that has the sole intention of killing me, he said i would see an improvement in my work.

The funny thing is he also takes chemistry and knows i dont do chemistry at school, he said " Bloody good job you dont work with real chemicals!".

Made me think and TBH i enjoy working with things more, its a great challenge trying to pour chemicals without getting drops on the bottle.
Its alot harder than you think, took me weeks before i got my non fizz!

Anyway, the improvement to how i work is good. I still hate washing up but at least i have spare room on my bench now! I no longer leave 2 Ltr bottles of 98% sulphuric acid sitting on the bench, i take what i need and the bottle gets wiped and goes back.

Sulaiman - 24-8-2016 at 15:21

To avoid drips on bottles I use disposable pipettes, £2 per 100 pieces
or for more agressive liquids I use glass syringes, e.g. 10ml = £1.48
but mostly I just rinse the (sealed) bottle under an outdoor tap after use.

I learned neatness after using silver nitrate and potassium permanganate

byko3y - 24-8-2016 at 22:01

I have no idea why you had luminol all over you body, but I have worked with some heavy coloring substances, and I can ensure you that my body was relatively clear from contamination, except some places on my hands (I was working without gloves, as usually).
Silver nitrate was one of the first coloring substances I worked with, I had it all over my hands. Still nothing on any other place of the body.