Hydrazine

What is Hydrazine?

Hydrazine (chemical formula: N2H4), is a chemical usually found as an oily liquid or a white crystal. It is colourless, soluble in water and has an ammonia like odour. Hydrazine is highly flammable.

What is Hydrazine used for?

Hydrazine is used mainly as a foaming agent in preparing polymer foams. Other uses include hydrazine as a component in; pharmaceuticals, rocket fuels, insecticides, and as one of the gases that causes an airbag to deploy. 

Hydrazine has been used as a component of rocket fuel since World War II
Hydrazine has been used as a component of rocket fuel since World War II

Hydrazine Hazards

You can be exposed to hydrazine through; inhalation, ingestion or skin and eye contact.

Inhalation of hydrazine mists or fumes may produce toxic effects such as; irritation of the respiratory tract, coughing, choking and pain. Excess fluid in the lungs can occur in more severe cases. Other symptoms might include deficits in concentration, comprehension, memory and mood. Prolonged exposure to high concentrations of the vapour may lead to; unconsciousness, coma and even death.

Ingestion of hydrazine can cause chemical burns in the mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Additional symptoms following ingestion can include profuse salivation with an inability to swallow or speak. Hydrazine is a highly toxic chemical and ingestion can be fatal. 

Skin contact can produce chemical burns and blistering on the skin. Reactions may not occur immediately, but may only appear several hours after the initial contact. 

Skin should be examined prior to handling the chemical to ensure you are suitably protected as open cuts or wounds can increase the risk of the chemical entering the blood-stream which carries its own set of harmful effects.

Eye contact with hydrazine can produce chemical burns to the eye. In more severe instances, corneal scarring, permanent opacity, cataracts and loss of sight may occur. 

Hydrazine Safety

If hydrazine has been inhaled by a person, remove them from the contaminated area to the nearest fresh air source and lay them down, ensuring they are warm and rested. Anything which might block their airways should be removed (e.g. false teeth, neck ties). If they are not breathing and you are qualified to do so, perform CPR. Seek medical attention without delay. Reactions to hydrazine can be delayed for up to 24 hours after exposure and should be kept under medical observation during this time to ensure no symptoms eventuate. 

If swallowed, vomiting should not be induced. Urgent hospital treatment is likely to be required and the patient should be monitored carefully. If vomiting does occur, lean the patient forward or place them on their left side to prevent aspiration. The patient should rinse their mouth out with water and slowly drink as much as they can comfortably drink.

In the event of exposure to the skin; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of water (use a safety shower if available). Seek medical attention.

If eye exposure occurs, remove any contact lenses and flush the eye with running water for at least 15 minutes, remembering to wash under the eyelids. Seek medical attention immediately. 

Hydrazine Safety Handling

Hydrazine is highly flammable as well as being a possible carcinogen. It needs to be treated and stored with care due to the potential consequences of exposure and fire. 

Adequate ventilation should be available when using hydrazine and installation of local exhaust may be necessary. 

Safety showers and emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical.

The recommended PPE for handling hydrazine are:

  • Chemical goggles
  • Full face shield
  • Vapour respirator
  • Full body proactive clothes (smocks, coveralls, or long-sleeved shirts and pants)
  • PVC or neoprene gloves
  • PVC aprons
  • Safety footwear or safety gumboots