Chemical spills can be handled effectively if some pre-planning has been conducted. Individuals should become familiar with proper clean-up procedures before a spill occurs. Commercial spill kits are available (chemistry stores) that have instructions, absorbents, reactants and protective equipment. Common examples: dolomite will neutralize HF. A sulfur-based mixture is used on mercury spills to form a compound with a much lower vapor pressure. A vacuum line, needle-nose pipette, and trap can be used to draw up the spill. The MSDS for a particular chemical will provide specific information about neutralizing agents.
For flammable liquids, spark-producing equipment should be turned off. The spilled liquid should absorbed and the absorbing material should placed in a plastic bag and kept away sources of ignition. This material should be disposed of in the same manner as hazardous chemical waste For toxic chemicals, all spark-producing equipment should be turned off, and all experiments shut down. The room should be evacuated until it is decontaminated. Call the DESHS on (894-6224 or 894-4635) how to deal with a particular toxic spill. With acids or alkalis, do not neutralize spilled liquid unless you are sure that the resulting reaction will not release hazardous fumes or cause explosion. Otherwise, neutralize the spilled liquid and absorb it. For a mercury spill, droplets and pools of mercury metal can be pushed together and then collected by suction using an aspirator bottle with a long capillary tube or a vacuum device made from a filtering flask, a rubber stopper, and several pieces of flexible and glass tubing. Cover droplets of mercury in non-accessible crevices with calcium polysulfide and excess sulfur. These will form compounds with the mercury with much lower vapor pressures. Dispose of this material in the same manner as hazardous chemical waste. For alkali metals, smother the spill with a special dry powder extinguisher, and keep any and all moisture away from the spill.