Ethanol Safety

Though making E85 ethanol may be good for the environment and good for lowering ethanol prices, the process involved when you make ethanol can be a dangerous one.

Ethanol Safety Risks

Workplace Safety is always important, and ethanol can be moderately to extremely dangerous in several ways. First of all, ethanol is essentially alcohol, and alcohol is a toxin that can be absorbed into the body through any porous membrane (like your tongue). It does not need to be ingested to get into the bloodstream. Just the fumes coming in contact with your eyes or being inhaled could get into your bloodstream. It is possible that being absorbed through your eyes could do direct damage to them as well. Now this may or may not be an issue for you. Its far less alcohol than a night's worth of drinking would put into your system. However, if you are a person who does not drink or is in someway medically vulnerable to alchohol, this could be dangerous. There is at least the simple concern of a minor health risk. Most of us do things that are harmful to our bodies, we might as well take simple steps to prevent other sources of harm.

As far as contact safety risks, ethanol does not pose much of a threat. Coming in contact with your skin will do nothing but dry it out and sterilize it. If you spill some on a cut, it will hurt, but it will also prevent infection. Obviously, you don't want to ingest the ethanol. Well... maybe you do want to ingest it, but you shouldnt. Though the ethanol is refined enough to fuel your car, it may not be refined enough to enter the human body. Not only that, properly distilled ethanol is very high alcohol content, so even a veteran consumer of alcohol may find themselves in more trouble than they bargained for after a few shots of E85 ethanol. This could be a great risk because of the likelyhood of somebody making ethanol and then deciding to ingest some of it, than for someone to have an accident that would cause the ethanol to prematurely combust.

Combustion of the ethanol, though unlikely, is probably the most dangerous hazard to ethanol safety. A large container of ethanol being ignited would cause a sizable explosion, and if you are near enough to the ethanol still, you may be caught in it!

Additionally, the actual ethanol production process can be dangerous, not just the result. Making cellulosic ethanol most likely means handling sulfuric acid, which is EXTREMELY dangerous because of the damage it can cause upon coming in contact with human skin. Even when making starched based ethanol such as corn ethanol, a base is used in the process, which can also be dangerous to human skin. And inhaling the noxious fumes that are created when the anaerobes (yeast) consumes the sugar solution to actually make ethanol could damage your respiratory system. Significant heating takes place throughout the process, so proximity to that heat is an additional risk.

Ethanol Safety Precautions

Fortunately, it only requires a small degree of caution to prevent all of these risks. Make sure you are wearing clothes that cover most of your skin, and wear goggles, gloves, and a surgical mask to prevent contact with porous membranes. DO NOT DRINK the ethanol you produce. Maybe you'll be ok, but maybe you'll regret it. Just play it safe. I believe it is illegal in most states to consume ethanol that you produce anyway. Make sure that your still is tightly sealed. Fumes leaking from the still coming in contact with the heat source could ignite, so just make sure there is NO WAY for that to happen. If you are working with sulfuric acid, be VERY careful. Sulfuric acid is dangerous in MANY ways. Skin contact, ingestion, inhalation, can at best be irrating, and at worst fatal. Make sure to wear 'impervious' material when handling sulfuric acid, such as thick rubber. If acid contacts clothing, remove clothing and flush skin constantly with water for 15 minutes. There are more precautions to take if you are working with sulfuric acid, I suggest you research it before doing so. We may add a page about sulfuric acid at some point. If you're going to contribute to ethanol expansion, just make sure you do it safely, ok? Please? Thanks