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July 20, 2012
Safe Handling of Ethanol

As the use of ethanol-gasoline blends continues to grow, any perceptions that ethanol can be handled any less cautiously than gasoline should be dismissed. Ethanol is a toxic substance that when ingested by people in small amounts can have intoxicating effects similar to those of alcohol. But larger amounts of ethanol in humans can cause coma and death. Additionally, E85, the common ethanol blend, is potentially carcinogenic. And ethanol is flammable.

The safety standards for handling, dispensing, or transporting E85 are the same as those for gasoline.

The following procedures should be taken if a person experiences symptoms of exposure.

  • For vapor inhalation, move away from the vapors to fresh air; contact medical personnel.
  • For skin adsorption, wash the exposed area with soap and rinse with large quantities of water; contact medical personnel.
  • For eye adsorption, flush the eyes with water for at least 15 minutes; contact medical personnel.
  • For ingestion, have the person lie down and keep him/her warm; do not induce vomiting; contact medical personnel immediately.

Before constructing any refueling installations, consult the local fire marshal. Regulations governing the safe handling of fuel ethanol may vary from area to area.

In case of a fire:

  • Use CO2, halon, or a dry chemical extinguisher.
  • Use the fire-fighting equipment and breathing apparatus.

For spills, disposal, and handling:

  • Spills—Eliminate all sources of ignition.
  • Waste disposal—Do not allow materials to enter sewers where vapors may be ignited.
  • Handling and storage—Keep away from heat, sparks, and open flames. Keep container closed. Use with adequate ventilation.

U.S. DOE’s Handbook for Handling, Storing, and Dispensing E85 is available here.

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