I'm a enthusiastic and devoted amateur chemist (in disguise, I'm actually a mathematician), but lately I've been thinking to what extend it is safe to pursue my hobby. I'm after all an amateur with just high-school lab skills and some unnecessary math to back me up. I really love chemical experiments, but I don't want to get seriously injured. The point is that same very basic materials, like sulfuric acid or cyclohexylamine, already have a 3 on the NFPA 704 scale of health hazards, quoting:

Short exposure could cause serious temporary or moderate residual injury (e.g. chlorine)

Of course I read the MSDS of the chemicals I'm working with, wear a protective lab coat and tightly connected safety goggles, plus safety gloves, but I don't have nearly the safety equipment of a normal lab (fumehood, eye showers, sprinklers, etc.) To to concretize my question:

  • Speaking for all amateur chemists out there: to what extend do you as a professional chemist consider amateurs like me to be safe. Can we handle level 3 or perhaps even level 4 chemicals, or should we stick with 2 (greatly reducing our potential experimenting terrain)?
  • What measure can we (and should we) take to ensure our safety?

I understand that the capabilities vary greatly between people, but there was not sufficient information regarding this topic (from reputable sources) for me to be found on the internet, so I though I post it here. I don't feel like this is a primarily opinion based question, as there is at least to some degree consensus that amateurs cannot (and are not allowed to!) safely handle, say for example tabun or potassium cyanide (just a ridiculous example to illustrate my point).

I hope you can appreciate my concerns and that if this is not the right place for this type of question (I think it is, there is even a safety tag here) you cordially redirect me to an other more suited place and close this.


closed as too broad by jonsca May 18 '14 at 12:31

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ to what extend do you as a professional chemist consider amateurs like me to be safe. That's a pretty good indicator that at least a part of this is opinion-based. However, I think there are some good questions buried in here (it's honestly too broad at present as well). I would split this up into a series of very specific questions about lab safety, not just a blanket question. $\endgroup$ – jonsca May 18 '14 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ As an aside, please do seek advice from someone that has used some of these chemicals before (not just random folks on the internet) if you are unsure. This can be an exciting hobby, but is a lot less enjoyable when missing appendages or organs. $\endgroup$ – jonsca May 18 '14 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ It may further be helpful if you specify the quantities you're dealing with and give a more exact account of which chemicals you're interested in. The hazards of macroscale experiments are often distinct from microscale ones, and there are too many disparate classes of chemicals to give useful advice beyond the most obvious of generalizations. $\endgroup$ – Greg E. May 18 '14 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ To give a concrete example of why more details are needed: you note that you wear safety gloves, but you haven't specified the material. If you're dealing with strong acids, for example, then common materials like latex and nitrile rubber will likely be unsuitable at all but low concentrations. If you use, e.g., ethyl acetate as a solvent, latex should be fine, while nitrile will dissolve. Probably only gloves with laminate film are resistant to most common chemicals across the board, but then you have to sacrifice manual dexterity. $\endgroup$ – Greg E. May 18 '14 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Jori, yes, I definitely concur that splitting this into separate questions of narrower scope would be preferable. That would permit you to provide more specifics and elicit more useful responses. $\endgroup$ – Greg E. May 18 '14 at 12:43