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I once volunteered for the task of cleaning out and organising several cabinets of chemicals for a science club. It all went well, until my heart suddenly jumped out of my throat, trying to run away and hide. In front of me, I had a five-litre glass bottle of picric acid, with crystal formations between the bottle and stopper. Eventually, the fire department's hazmat team came around and very, very carfully carried it away.

The scariest thing? I'd been using that lab for six months and the cabinet had rather heavy doors.

Isn't epoxy like fine wine? It gets better with age? ;-)

Seriously, though, shelf-life numbers are usually based on worst case storage conditions. If the product has been stored in nominal conditions, then the product life time may be significantly longer than the number printed on the package. Additionally, most manufacturers don't guarantee a product's performance if it's used after the shelf-life number has expired, but the product may still be perfectly good. Thus, the real questions are what use will the product be put to, and whether it's been stored in ideal conditions.

As for Adipic Acid, no, you probably won't put it in your kitchenware, but you probably have eaten it:

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to do that with a technical grade product (I'd want it to be food grade before I intentionally ate it.).

And, who knows when your techies will want to make a batch of nylon! ;-)

Having worked in a technical environment for well over 25 years, I know that, as soon as you throw something out, you develop an immediate need for it. Furthermore, having to wait to obtain something, even over night, can put a significant dent in schedules.

As for hiding stuff, well, some of that is intentional to keep questionable items from being confiscated. Some of it is to prevent the guy from the other lab from using all of your stock and not replenishing it (causing you to be out when you desperate need a bit of it). Some of it is from laziness (Put it where you last used it, rather than returning it to the stock cabinet.). Some of it is from absentmindedness. Some of it is packrattiness. Some of it just defies explanation. Each reason has it's own causes, and must be dealt with individually (else mistrust is bred).

Sometimes, it's good to compromise with the techies, even though it goes against your training, just to build some confidence. Sometimes, it's just not worth fighting the battle (e.g., "Playing the game").

On the other hand, out of all of the stuff you mentioned, that quantity of Hydrofluoric Acid would be the only thing that really worried me. That stuff can be deadly if a bit is splashed on someone (Something about upsetting the Calcium/Sodium/Potassium balance in the bloodstream, leading to cardiac arrest.). Thus, it should be stored in the proper location, and a quantity of Calcium Gluconate should be kept in an appropriate location, and the safety/medical team should be trained to administer it.

Now, if you want some real fun, consider that some industrial/lab processes are VERY dependent upon dopant quantity levels (e.g., 1E-8 or less!). Thus, sometimes, it's worth keeping a quantity of expired product around, since it's been proven to not have (or to have) any detrimental contaminants (versus new product, which is unproven). Some of this, of course, depends on the exact work that your lab/industry does. Semiconductor fabrication is particularly sensitive to this, as was certain segments of industry dealing with photoconductors (Oh, the stories I could tell!).

As for the home lab scenario, most home chemists (and, I STRONGLY differentiate between a home chemist and a meth cooker!) are quite responsible. Sure, there are horror stories, but that's true with any
industrial/lab/educational setting, too. Picric Acid has traditionally
been one of the worst offenders, although there are many other materials, most of which form explosive peroxides via aging, that are of concern, too
(Oh, the stories I could tell here, too! Let me just say, from personal experience, that Nitroglycerine is a thick, yellow, oily liquid!!!).

For the most part, scientists/engineers/technicians/etc. appreciate the work the safety officer does. But, part of the trick is to work with them,
and to accommodate some of their quirks, in the interest of fostering a better working relationship (and, truly squashing the real safety hazards).


Nightmare duty, for sure--I can relate.

Back in the day, I was the safety officer for a construction company. Sounds exciting, yes? I'll just say that enforcing safety standards on 200 construction workers/neanderthals added a whole new dimension to normal day-to-day self-preservation in my life.

Dave's got it right, including the HF (I hate the bone dissolving part). Sometimes you have a brilliant idea that needs expired epoxy, adipic acid, and dueterium. Or you are in the lab at 3 AM, your synthesis is going well, you just need to add 50 mls of adipic acid, there is only 20 left, and your safety office threw out the other bottles!

Some of the scientists may also have Safety Officer "Baggage". They have had bad past history with safety officers, and are reacting to you, based on how someone else treated them in the past. At my company, for process control we assigned our own number to all chemicals, with a different number for every vendor (at least 3 reagent grade ethanols with the same purity). This morphed into the catch-all number for regulating all chemicals, including for safety. The MSDS was not enough, you had to label every container with this number also. The number grew to be applied to things not used in manufacturing, and then to things that were not in the lab. It was a safety violation not to have labeled your bottle of white board eraser with the process control #. Even if you kept the MSDS for it next to the white board. We hid all the white board eraser during the safety inspection. We really almost labeled the soap at the sink next to the coffee machine.

So, like many relationships, you must slowly establish trust, and there must be some compromise. Proving that if you take their old chemicals, they get shiny new ones. Even giving them the new ones first. Letting them keep 2 month expired epoxy, but not 6 month expired epoxy. And then someday, they will they look back fondly at the times when you were their safety officer. Or maybe not.

Oh do I ever understand where you are coming from, but if you want something really scary, try doing a safety audit and a rural high school chem lab.

The first year I did this I found TWO labs that had bottles crystallized Picric Acid. One bottle was completely crystallized. The police bomb squad disposed of that one. The current chemistry teacher didn't even know it was there.

Dave's got it right, including the HF (I hate the bone dissolving part). Sometimes you have a brilliant idea that needs expired epoxy, adipic acid, and dueterium.Thanks for more posting.

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    Physics Cocktails

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      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
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      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
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      2 oz light cream
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      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
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