A Beginner’s Guide to the Safety Risks of Diethyl Ether

A Beginner’s Guide to the Safety Risks of Diethyl Ether

When working with chemicals, it’s important to fully understand what you’re working with, the safety hazards, and how to properly store and handle that substance. Diethyl ether, a common laboratory solvent, is one such chemical. 

If diethyl ether is something that you use in the course of your work, this guide has the basic information you need to know to use it safely. Read on to learn more. 

What is Diethyl Ether? 

Diethyl ether was originally used as an anesthetic. In the 1840s, it was first used as an anesthetic for dental surgery. It was the preferred anesthetic over chloroform at the time, as it had a longer safety window.

It’s no longer used as an anesthetic but is still commonly used in laboratories as a solvent for chemical reactions and liquid-liquid extraction. It is the result of the combination of sulfuric acid and ethanol. It is an organic compound and is colorless, but has a very strong, yet sweet, odor. 

In labs, it makes an effective solvent for alkaloids, dyes, resins, waxes, oils, and fats. It is also used as a solvent in the creation of cellulose plastics. It’s also used as a starting fluid for gas and diesel engines. 

Diethyl Ether Health Hazards

Diethyl ether is extremely flammable. When exposed to light and air, it can produce explosive peroxides. There are also inhalation hazards and eye and skin contact can cause irritation. Follow proper precautions when you are in the vicinity of diethyl ether. 

If you inhale it, you should seek fresh air. If breathing is labored, administer oxygen. If the person exposed to it is not breathing, perform CPR and seek medical attention.

If eyes come in contact with diethyl ether, remove contact lenses immediately. Flush eyes with clean water for 15 minutes. After flushing the eyes, you should seek medical attention. 

Skin that comes in contact with diethyl ether should be rinsed with plenty of water and then covered with an emollient cream to soothe the skin. If there is a large swatch of skin exposed, use an anti-bacterial cream, and get medical help. 

If someone ingests it, do not induce vomiting. Instead, loosen tight clothing, refrain from giving the person anything by mouth, and seek medical attention.

Include all of this information on posted safety data sheets in your laboratory and other areas where it is used and stored.

Safely Using and Handling Diethyl Ether

When using diethyl ether in a lab, use only group C, explosion-proof electrical equipment. There should also be access to fire-fighting equipment, such as dry chemical powder, alcohol foam, water spray, and fog. 

The area should have adequate ventilation so that vapors do not accumulate and eyewash stations and safety showers should be readily accessible. Use splash goggles, gloves, and a respirator while handling it. 

When storing it, make sure it is not near any oxidizers, heat, and sources of ignition. Store it in a container with a tightly closed lid and placed in a cool, well-ventilated area where it is not exposed to air, light, and moisture.

Diethyl Ether Safety 

Diethyl ether can have significant negative impacts on your health and also poses a high fire danger. If working with diethyl ether is a regular part of your lab work, ensuring the safe handling, storage, and knowing what to do if you’re exposed to it is extremely important. 

If you need help creating safety data sheets, contact us today. Not only can we help create and manage your safety data sheets, but we can also work with you on hazardous material management. 

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