Revision 6/2018, posted 11/2018

Use This, Not That!

This Fact Sheet offers suggestions for selection of solvents for use in chemical reactions, extractions, and purifications in chemical research labs. 

The Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) group at Pfizer Global Research and Development initiated a project to assess the suitability of common solvents based on criteria of (i) Worker Safety, (ii) Process Safety, and (iii) Environmental and regulatory considerations.  The recommendations below are adapted from their published content in Green Chem., 2008,10, 31-36 (DOI: 10.1039/B711717E). 

Preferred usable and undesirable solvent lists

Avoid Using

TLV* (ppm)

Why is it bad?

Potential Alternative

Benzene

0.5**

Carcinogen, low TLV, Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant

Toluene

Carbon tetrachloride

5

Carcinogen, toxic, depletes ozone, Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant

Dichloromethane

Chloroform

10

Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant, carcinogen

Dichloromethane

Di-isopropyl ether

250

Powerful peroxide former

2-MeTHF or tert-butyl methyl ether

Dichloroethane

10

Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant, carcinogen

Dichloromethane

Dichloromethane (for chromatography)

100

Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant, carcinogen

Ethyl Acetate/Heptane

Dichloromethane (for extractions)

100

Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant, carcinogen

Ethyl Acetate, MTBE, Toluene, 2-MeTHF

Diethyl ether

400

Low flash point

2-MeTHF or tert-butyl methyl ether

Dimethly formamide

10**

Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant, toxic

Acetonitrile

Dimethoxy ethane

Data not determined

Carcinogen, toxic

2-MeTHF or tert-butyl methyl ether

Dimethyl acetamide

10**

Toxic

Acetonitrile

Dioxane

20**

Classified as a hazardous airborne pollutant, carcinogen

2-MeTHF or tert-butyl methyl ether

Hexane

50

More toxic than alternative

Heptane

N-methly pyrrolidinone

Data not determined

Toxic

Acetonitrile

Pentane

None established

Low flash point

Heptane

Pyridine

1

Carcinogen/mutagenic/ reproductive hazard, low TLV

Triethylamine (if pyridine is used as base)

*TLV = American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices.

** Skin notation, indicates significant contribution to the overall exposure by cutaneous absorption

 

Related SOPs and Fact Sheets

SOP:  Flammable Liquids

SOP:  Acutely Toxic Chemicals

Fact Sheet:  Controlling Chemical Vapors in the Laboratory