Reactive Chemical Safety

On Dec. 29, 2008, a 23-year-old research assistant was killed in a laboratory accident at UCLA. The accident occurred as the researcher was using a plastic syringe to extract t-butyl lithium, an air-reactive compound, from a sealed container.

The syringe came apart as she was withdrawing the liquid from a sealed container and immediately ignited. The subsequent flash fire set her clothes on fire and resulted in second and third-degree burns on over 43 percent of her body. She died 18 days after the accident.  

The Los Angeles Times article entitled  “Deadly UCLA lab fire leaves haunting questions” is available in its entirety.

To help reduce the risk of this from occurring at the University, the Department of Environmental Health and Safety has put together a training program for people working with reactive chemicals. An online version of the training is available at the link below. In addition, EHS can conduct classroom training on air- and water-reactive compounds. 

Some examples of materials that may be air- or water-sensitive include:

  • Boranes 
  • Borohydrides
  • Organoboranes
  • Organolithiums 
  • Organoaluminums
  • Gringard reagents 
  • Alkali Metals (Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, Cesium)

Online Training

Use your UMID to login to MyEHS. Click on Online Training and navigate to the Learning Hub. Search for the course entitled Working Safely with Reactive Chemicals

Additional information on reactive chemicals can be found at: