Bis(chloromethyl) Ether

CAS RN:542-88-1

Hazards Summary

The major hazards encountered in the use and handling of bis(chloromethyl) ether stem from its toxicologic properties and flammability. Exposure to this highly volatile, colorless liquid may occur via inhalation, ingestion, or dermal absorption from activities associated with its use as a chemical intermediate and in laboratory research. In addition, conflicting evidence exists for its spontaneous formation from formaldehyde and chloride ions (eg, hydrochloric acid (HCL) in moist air. Bis(chloromethyl) ether vapor is severely irritating to the skin, mucous membranes, and eyes. More importantly, this substance is a confirmed human carcinogen. As an OSHA regulated carcinogen, bis(chloromethyl) ether operations are prohibited in open vessels, and must employ the use of exhaust fans, protective equipment and clothing, warning signs, and labels. While mechanical ventilation must be used to minimize exposure (TLV: 0.001 ppm), full body protective clothing and gloves also should be used on entering areas of potential exposure. Further, those employed in handling operations should wear full face supplied-air respirators of the continuous flow or pressure-demand type. Workers should remove and leave protective clothing and equipment at the end of the work shift for decontamination, and shower before dressing in street clothes. Smoking, drinking, application of cosmetics, and presence of food should be prohibited in the work area. Bis(chloromethyl) ether is a particularly dangerous fire hazard. In addition to being easily ignited by sparks or flames (flash point: <19 deg C, closed cup), when heated to decomposition, this substance can emit very toxic hydrogen chloride fumes. Also, upon standing, this substance can form peroxides. If the substance is then heated, it can detonate. For small fires involving bis(chloromethyl) ether, extinguish with dry chemical, CO2, water spray, or foam, and for large fires use water spray, fog, or foam. Runoff from fire control water may give off poisonous gases and cause water pollution. Storage of bis(chloromethyl) ether should be in a cool, dry area, away from acids, oxidizers, or any sources of ignition (eg, open flames, hot plates). Adding antioxidants and keeping containers electrically grounded will reduce explosion potential. Containers of bis(chloromethyl) ether may be shipped via road and water (forbidden on passenger aircraft and railcar), and should be affixed with labels stating, "Poison". Before transporting bis(chloromethyl) ether, the regulatory requirements of the DOT should be consulted. For large spills of bis(chloromethyl) ether first isolate the hazard area and deny entry. Keeping upwind and staying out of low areas, use water spray to reduce vapor. Runoff should be prevented by diking. Protective clothing and a positive pressure breathing apparatus should be worn for all remedial operations. If the spill is in an enclosed space, ventilate before entering. Bis(chloromethyl) ether is a potential candidate for liquid injection, rotary kiln, and fluidized bed forms of incineration. Another method of treatment leading to the decomposition of bis(chloromethyl) ether is to inject it with ammonia in an aqueous or methanol solution. Prior to implementing land disposal of waste residue, consult with environmental regulatory agencies for guidance. Under RCRA, when bis(chloromethyl) ether becomes a waste, it must be managed according to federal and/or state hazardous waste regulations.
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