Management of obsolete chemicals

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February, 2008
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Most educational institutions in Ghana have hundreds of chemicals in their stores, but few of them know what they have and where they are located. Hazardous chemicals accumulate when there is no tracking system and no disposal plan or when there are changes in staff and /or in curriculum. Industrial donations can compound the problem. With gradual increase of unused chemicals, space and sorting of chemicals becomes a problem in the stores and as a result, newly acquired chemicals are either kept on shelves or benches along side old stocks. Other personnel resort to dumping of chemicals at one corner on the store floors, thus reeking the stores. In this study, quantities of current and obsolete chemicals were inventoried from the stores of Biological Department, Chemistry Department and Pharmacy Department, all of KNUST and also from Anglican Senior High School, Kumasi High Senior High School, and Technology Senior High school in Kumasi. Qualitative analysis and melting point determination were conducted on some of the chemicals to ascertain their chemical and physical properties. The melting point determination was done using Electro-thermal melting point apparatus. Of the total weight of 1,082.7 kg of chemicals inventoried, 886.9 kg representing 81.9% was found to be obsolete and were grouped as; products requiring further testing and products that were definitely obsolete. The total weight of products requiring further testing was 42.7 kg and comprised of; 22.3 kg of acids, 10.7 kg of base and 5.4 kg neutral products. The remaining 4.4 kg could not be opened by hand due to the rusty nature of the caps. The total weight of products that were definitely obsolete was 844.2 kg and consisted of; 101.8 kg of corrosive chemicals, 28.8 kg of explosives, 102.0 kg of flammable/combustible, 61.5 kg of oxidizing materials, 19.0 kg of reactive, 235.1 kg of toxic/poison, 171.3 kg of non-hazardous, and 124.0 kg of unclassified products. The results revealed that the generation of obsolete chemicals for the tertiary level on average was about 6 times higher than that for the senior high schools. Another finding was that the obsolete chemicals found in the stores could be classified as toxic, corrosive, reactive, explosive, oxidizing, highly inflammable or non-hazardous in nature. Due to the hazardous nature of the chemicals found, the quantities and economic considerations, proper disposal method of these chemicals have been proposed in this work.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Chemistry, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science,