Ethanol is a widely used chemical in the industry as a solvent, alcoholic beverages, and raw material for making other chemical products such as ethylene.

Nowadays, while the Covid-19 outbreak is spreading, ethanol is getting more and more popular. It is because ethanol is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the hand sanitizer ingredients.

So, it is very relevant to talk about the safety hazard of ethanol in order to avoid its harmful effects on our health and safety while using it.

Let’s start to dive into the topic.

The Ethanol Other Names

Some of us may not familiar with the ethanol other names. In fact, ethanol has several other names. If you miss this, ethanol misuse may happen and potentially an incident will occur.

So, what are ethanol other names actually?

Here are the names:

  • ethyl alcohol
  • grain alcohol
  • fermentation alcohol
  • ethyl hydroxide
  • methyl carbinol

In conclusion, if you find one of the above names rather than ethanol as a chemical you are using, you must believe that you are using the same chemical.

The Safety Hazard of Ethanol

According to NFPA, ethanol’s hazard rating are:

  • health: 2 (moderate)
  • flammability: 3 (serious)
  • reactivity: 0 (minimal)

And from the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of 95% ethanol, we can find that ethanol has a low flash point (-21oC). This makes ethanol can easily vaporize to form an ignitable air mixture.

Besides that, several other important physical properties of ethanol that we shall know are:

  • Boiling point 30-200 deg of centigrade (85-392 F)
  • Upper explosive limit of 7.6 vol%
  • Lower explosive limit of 1.3 vol%
  • Vapour pressure of 345-1,034 hPa at 100 F.
  • Autoignition temperature of 250oC (480 F)

Actually, the hazard of ethanol can be broken down into health and safety hazards. However, in this post I will focus only on the safety hazard of ethanol.

The ethanol hazards are as follows:

  • It can irritate the skin and eyes.
  • It can also irritate the nose, throat, and lungs through inhalation.
  • A high concentration of ethanol can damage the fetus.
  • Exposure to high concentration can cause headaches, drowsiness, nausea, and unconsciousness. If the exposure repeats, it may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.
  • Extreme exposure can cause death.
  • Ethanol is a flammable liquid that can easily be caught by fire.
  • Poison gases may be obtained during the fire involving ethanol such as carbon monoxide
  • An explosion can occur if the ethanol is stored inside a closed container.
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Ethanol Safety Precautions

To stay safe while handling ethanol, there are some safety precautions we must take into account.

  • Always carry out a risk assessment when you will make a new SOP, facility, or any modification involving ethanol as the process liquid.
  • Keep ethanol away from fire, sparks, and heated surfaces. No smoking near areas where the material is stored or handled. The product should only be stored and handled in areas with an explosion-proof class.
  • Install adequate grounding and bonding at ethanol transfer pipe and pump to avoid static electricity generation.
  • The storage tank level float must be bonded properly to avoid static electricity.
  • A nitrogen gas supply line is available to substitute air from the storage tank.
  • Use only approved containers and made of compatible material.
  • Always keep the container closed.
  • Use an appropriate label for the container and storage tank.
  • Never expose the container or storage tank to a heat source.
  • Keep ethanol away from incompatible chemicals such as oxidizing agents, peroxides, alkalines, and strong acids.
  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) while handling this chemical.
  • Make sure that proper fire extinguishing media available at the point of use of ethanol.
  • The empty container shall be treated as hazardous waste.