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Flammables

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A flammable chemical is any solid, liquid, vapor, or gas that ignites easily and burns rapidly in air. Consult the appropriate MSDSs before beginning work with flammables.

Flashpoint, Boiling Point, Ignition Temperature, and Class

Flammable chemicals are classified according to flashpoint, boiling point, ignition temperature. Flashpoint (FP) is the lowest temperature at which a flammable liquid gives off sufficient vapor to ignite. Boiling point (BP) is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of a liquid is equal to the atmospheric pressure under which the liquid vaporizes. Flammable liquids with low BPs generally present special fire hazards. The FPs and BPs of certain chemicals are closely linked to their ignition temperature--the lowest temperature at which a chemical will ignite and burn independently of its heat source.

The following table illustrates flammable class characteristics:

CLASS

FLASH POINT (oF)

BOILING POINT (oF)

EXAMPLES

1A

<73

<100

Ethyl ether
"Flammable" aerosols

1B

<73

<100

Acetone
Gasoline
Toluene

1C

>73

<100

Butyl alcohol
Methyl isobutyl ketone
Turpentine

2

100 - 140

---

Cyclohexane
Kerosene
Mineral spirits

1B

<73

<100

Acetone
Gasoline
Toluene

1C

>73

<100

Butyl alcohol
Methyl isobutyl ketone
Turpentine

2

100 - 140

---

Cyclohexane
Kerosene
Mineral spirits

3A

140 - 199

---

Butyl cellosolve

3B

>200

---

Cellosolve
Ethylene glycol
Hexylene glycol

The following table provides examples of common flammables and their flashpoint and class.

CHEMICAL

FLASH POINT (oF)

CLASS

Acetone

0

1B

Benzene

12

1B

Butyl Acetate

>72

1C

Carbon Disulfide

-22

1B

Cyclohexane

-4

1B

Diethylene Glycol

225

3B

Diethyl ether

-49

1A

Ethanol

55

1B

Heptane

25

1B

Isopropyl Alcohol

53

1B

Methanol

52

1B

Pentane

<-40

1A

Toluene

40

1B

Conditions for a Fire

Improper use of flammable liquids can cause a fire. The following conditions must exist for a fire to occur:

  • Flammable material must be present in sufficient concentration to support a fire (i.e., fuel).
  • Oxygen or another oxidizer must be present.
  • An ignition source must be present (i.e., heat, spark, etc.).

Safe Handling Guidelines for Flammables

Follow these guidelines when working with flammable chemicals:

  • Use a fume hood when there is a possibility of dangerous vapors. (Ventilation will help reduce dangerous vapor concentrations.)
  • Restrict the amount of stored flammables, and minimize the amount of flammables present in a work area.
  • Remove from storage only the amount of chemical needed for a particular experiment or task.
  • Use ground straps when transferring flammable chemicals between metal containers to avoid generating static sparks.
  • Handle flammable chemicals in areas free from ignition sources.
  • Never heat flammable chemicals with an open flame. Use a water bath, oil bath, heating mantle, hot air bath, etc.