Lesson Learned - Explosion of Concentrated Hydrofluoric Acid Waste Solution

What happened?

A graduate student in a UC Berkeley laboratory discovered the aftermath of a chemical explosion upon arrival at the laboratory he shares with other graduate students. The extensive contamination was caused by the explosive rupture of a plastic bottle of liquid waste kept inside the hood. According to the container label, one of the components inside the ruptured bottle was hydrofluoric acid. The investigation revealed that an incompatible material may have been poured into the same container causing the reaction and resulting explosion. The hood, floor and walls near the hood, and the light fixture above the hood were contaminated and discolored due to the effect of the strong acid.

Lessons learned from this incident include:

  • When adding waste to a partially filled container, make sure that your material is compatible with the existing waste. If unsure, ask someone who can provide accurate information or use a new waste container. You can also contact EH&S (642-3073) with any questions.
  • Waste containers should be properly labeled with the date and their contents.

Resources

Safe Storage of Hazardous Chemicals Booklet (PDF)