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Hydrazine

I have seen from the news from Japan that hydrazine is now being added to the water which is added to the damaged nuclear plants in Japan. I suspect that the hydrazine is being used to remove oxygen from the water; commonly hydrazine is used in boilers to scavenge oxygen.

If you want to read the news then please see http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20110514-3-1.pdf

Hydrazine is amino amine (H2N-NH2) which is used as a rocket fuel and as a chemical intermediate for making a range of different chemical products including sodium azide and some organic compounds.

I hold a view that it is often better to ban or restrict specific uses of a chemical rather than trying to ban it totally. The use of hydrazine in boiler water is something which I would like to restrict or even ban.

Hydrazine is a nasty carcinogen, in boiler systems less toxic and non toxic alternatives such as diethyl hydroxylamine (http://www.accepta.com/details.asp?cat=100&scat=30&id=2061) and isoascorbic acid also known as erythorbic acid  (http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/boiler-water-treatment-d_909.html) can be used to replace hydrazine in many systems. So as a chemist I would suggest replacing hydrazine where possible with an alternative deoxygenating agent.

When dealing with toxic or other horrible chemicals the best way to think is

  1. Do I need to use that chemical, will an alternative chemical which is less hazardous do the same job?
  2. Can I reduce the amount of the chemical I use?
  3. How can I prevent the escape of the chemical to the environment and the workplace?
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