Inorganic azides such as sodium azide present a dual hazard; on top of the toxicity they are also explosive. Whilst sodium azide – the most commonly-used inorganic azide – is not particularly shock-sensitive, when flushed into drains it can react with heavier metals such as lead and copper. This can result in copper and lead azide being formed, which are extremely explosive compounds. Significant injuries have occurred on rare occasions such as in this example. Due consideration should also be given to any equipment used with inorganic azides (e.g. manifolds, vacuum equipment) to prevent reactions with incompatible metals.
Disposal of inorganic azides
Inorganic azides should not be flushed down drains due to the aforementioned incompatibility. Disposal should be via the usual hazardous chemical waste process unless the area responsible has sufficient knowledge to safely decompose azide waste.
For further information please contact your local HSW Team.