Isopropyl Alcohol is a clear colourless liquid that is miscible with water, chloroform, ethanol and ether among others. It has a strong odour and is fairly combustible. Given its high volatility, it evaporates quickly when exposed to air. Also known as isopropanol or IPA, it’s a secondary alcohol and finds uses in a wide variety of applications such as sanitisers, disinfectants, antiseptics and detergents.
Need something clean? Isopropanol has you covered. It often makes an appearance in many everyday household items such as rubbing alcohol, antiseptics, detergents, and your latest must-have, hand sanitiser. You’ll also see it in window cleaners, antifreezes and perfumes.
It also has medical applications, such as being a cleaning agent, key ingredient in rubbing alcohol, and is a component of disinfecting pads.
As a solvent, IPA is helpful for cleaning circuitry and other electrical items, as its ability to evaporate quickly means there is very little chance of shock or damage to electrical components.
IPA is readily absorbed through the skin. But before you panic, remember that it’s typically used in small amounts in personal care products, and usually in a concentration below 70%, meaning there is only a low chance of receiving toxic exposure to the substance.
However, if you do happen to be exposed to enough isopropyl alcohol, poisoning from it can affect a number of bodily systems, but predominantly the nervous and respiratory systems. Acute exposure can cause a number of effects, including:
If someone has swallowed isopropyl alcohol, it’s best not to induce vomiting. Rinse their mouth with water and get medical attention ASAP.
If you’ve gotten IPA on your skin, you should remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories. Don’t re-wear your clothing until you’ve been able to give it a solid wash and ensure it’s been thoroughly decontaminated. Immediately rinse any affected areas of your body with plenty of water. If any symptoms persist, contact your doctor immediately.
Gotten isopropanol in your eyes? Flush them out (including under the eyelids), with water for at least 15 minutes, then contact a medical professional.
If someone has inhaled IPA, take them to the nearest fresh air source and monitor their breathing, and keep them warm. If they’re not breathing, and you are qualified, you should perform CPR with a one-way valve or protective mask. Seek immediate medical attention for them.
On a related note, you should never administer anything by mouth to someone who has been exposed to isopropanol and is now unconscious.
Engineering controls: Emergency eyewash fountains and quick-drench areas should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure. Ensure there is adequate ventilation. Use a local exhaust ventilation or process enclosure, to limit the amount of acid in the air.
Personal protection: Safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves, an apron and an appropriate mask or dusk respirator. Wear impervious shoes. Do not wear contact lenses. For specifications regarding other PPE, Follow the guidelines set in your jurisdiction.
Make sure you’ve got emergency eyewash fountains and quick-drench areas accessible in the immediate area of potential IPA exposure.
You also need to ensure there is adequate ventilation – it’s best to use a local exhaust ventilation or process enclosure.
In terms of PPE, safety glasses, protective and dustproof clothing, gloves, an apron and an appropriate mask or dusk respirator are ideal. You should also be wearing impervious shoes. And remember, wearing contact lenses whilst handling isopropyl alcohol is a no-no. Do not wear contact lenses. For specifications regarding other PPE, Follow the guidelines set in your jurisdiction.
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