Robert Joyce and Blaine C. McKusick
The following material has been extracted from two books
prepared under the auspices of the Committee on Hazardous
Substances in the Laboratory of the National Academy of Sciences
– National Research Council. Readers are referred to these books
for full details:
Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous Chemicals in Labo-
National Academy Press, Washington, 1981.
Prudent Practices for Disposal of Chemicals from Laboratories,
National Academy Press, Washington, 1983.
The permission of the National Academy Press to use these
extracts is gratefully acknowledged.
The term “incompatible chemicals” refers to chemicals that can
react with each other
With evolution of substantial heat
To produce flammable products
To produce toxic products
Good laboratory safety practice requires that incompatible
chemicals be stored, transported, and disposed of in ways that will
prevent their coming together in the event of an accident. Tables
1 and 2 give some basic guidelines for the safe handling of acids,
bases, reactive metals, and other chemicals. Neither of these tables
is exhaustive, and additional information on incompatible chemicals
can be found in the following references
Urben, P. G., Ed.,
Bretherick’s Handbook of Reactive Chemical
5th ed., Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, 1995.
2. Luxon, S. G., Ed.,
Hazards in the Chemical Laboratory
ed., Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, 1992.
Fire Protection Guide to Hazardous Materials,
National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 1994.
General Classes of Incompatible Chemicals
Bases, reactive metals
Ammonia, anhydrous and aqueous
The examples of oxidizing and reducing agents are illustrative of common laboratory chemicals; they are
not intended to be exhaustive.
TABLE 2. Examples of Incompatible Chemicals
Is incompatible with
Chromic acid, nitric acid, hydroxyl compounds, ethylene glycol, perchloric
acid, peroxides, permanaganates
Chlorine, bromine, copper, fluorine, silver, mercury
Concentrated nitric and sulfuric acid mixtures
Alkali and alkaline earth metals (such as powdered aluminum or
magnesium, calcium, lithium, sodium, potassium)
Water, carbon tetrachloride or other chlorinated hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide,
Mercury (in manometers, for example), chlorine, calcium hypochlorite, iodine,
bromine, hydrofluoric acid (anhydrous)
Acids, powdered metals, flammable liquids, chlorates, nitrites, sulfur, finely
divided organic or combustible materials