Tert butyllithium (t-Butyl lithium) is extremely hazardous and the potential for a serious accident is great if strict handling procedures are not followed as it can instantly catch fire when it comes into contact with air. But, there are a number of tips you can follow to make sure neither you nor your staff fall victim to this and other dangerous substances:
- All staff must wear lab coats and safety glasses at all times when working with hazardous chemicals in the laboratory.
- Never work alone when handling highly hazardous chemicals, especially organic lithium reagents. Always let others in the laboratory know when you are working with these solutions.
- Never work with hazardous chemicals unless there is an eyewash and safety shower nearby. Be sure to know where they are and the procedures to follow in the event of an emergency.
- Organic lithium compounds cannot be exposed to the atmosphere since they will react spontaneously with moisture in the air. Although purchased in bottles that self-seal, they will degrade after use and should be disposed of as hazardous waste within 1 month of opening.
- Only purchase the amount of the substance that you plan to use for each experiment.
- Review the safe procedures for handling highly reactive reagents.
- Work inside the fume hood with the horizontal sash positioned in front of you to protect you from any splash that may occur. If your fume hood does not have a horizontal sash, use a splash guard positioned in front of the bottle when drawing the liquid into the syringe.
- Go through your inventories and dispose of any opened containers of these reagents that you are not planning on using in the near future.
Keeping these rules in mind when working with volatile compounds such as t-Butyl Lithium can be a big help in preventing tragedies from occurring in your lab.