Safe Handing and Disposal of Organic Substances

This is part of the HSC Chemistry course under the topic Hydrocarbons.

HSC Chemistry Syllabus

  • describe the procedures required to safely handle and dispose of organic substances (ACSCH075)

Safe Handling of Organic Substances

In general, all organic substances should be handled with personal protective equipments (PPE):

  • safety goggles
  • closed shoes
  • lab coat
  • nitrile gloves

Many organic substances are toxic and flammable.

When flammable substances, sources of ignition such as Bunsen burners should be avoided. If heat is required, alternatives like water baths and heating mantles should be considered.

When handling toxic substances, it is important to use a fume hood in order to prevent inhalation and contact with skin and eyes. It is useful to know toxicity symptoms so that appropriate treatment can be applied.

Some organic substances are volatile. These chemicals should be handled in fume hoods or well ventilated areas. 

Incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons produces carbon monoxide, CO, which is odourless and toxic. Any combustion reactions involving hydrocarbons must be conducted in the fume hood.

Properties of organic substances and their corresponding precautions are summarised in the following table

 Properties Precautions
  • Keep away from ignition sources
  • Store in cabinets dedicated for flammable substances
  • Avoid direct contact
  • Know exposure symptoms and appropriate first-aid treatment
  • Handle only in fume hoods or well ventilated areas
Easily oxidised
  • Store away from strong oxidants/oxidising agents


Safe Disposal of Organic Substances

Organic substances can be toxic, flammable and easily oxidised. Therefore, they should not be poured down the drain.

Small quantities of organic substances should be placed in shallow vessels in fume hoods where the solvent can evaporate.


organic waste disposal container


Large quantities of organic substances should be disposed separately in the ‘Organic Liquid’ waste container located in the fume hood. These containers are collected by waste disposal personnel. 

    Halogenated hydrocarbons are required to be disposed in ‘Halogenated Organic Waste’ container because they are toxic upon inhalation and ingestion. This includes any compounds that contain F, Cl, Br and I.

    Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)

    Material safety data sheet (MSDS) is available for all organic substances. MSDS provides information on the substance's

    • common and IUPAC systematic name
    • concentration (if it's a solution
    • hazards and precautions
    • appropriate disposal methods
    • first-aid treatment methods