OSHA Hazard Information Bulletins
Potential Hazard Caused By The Deterioration Of Polyethylene Bottles Containing Corrosive Chemical

April 12, 1990




  • Director
  • Office of Field Programs


  • Director
  • Directorate of Technical Support


  • Hazard Information Bulletin - The Potential Hazard Caused By The Deterioration Of Polyethylene Bottles Containing Corrosive Chemical

The Directorate of Technical Support issues Hazard Information Bulletins (HIBs) in accordance with OSHA Instruction CPL 2.65 to provide relevant information regarding unrecognized or misunderstood safety and health hazards, and/or inadequacies of materials, devices, techniques and engineering controls. HIBs are initiated based on information provided by the field staff, studies, reports and concerns expressed by safety and health professionals, employers and the public. Information is compiled based on a comprehensive evaluation of available facts, literature and in coordination with appropriate parties. HIBs do not necessarily reflect OSHA policy.

Recently, it was brought to our attention that possible safety and health risks may arise with the practice of using polyethylene bottles to store and dispense corrosive chemicals over a long period of time. A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) bulletin indicates that the normal life expectancy of a polyethylene bottle used for handling corrosive chemicals may be less than one year. According to the DOE bulletin, a chemist at the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant (ICPP) suffered chemical burns while dispensing a concentrated corrosive chemical from a two year old polyethylene bottle. Fortunately, the employee was wearing protective clothing which limited the severity of injury.

Polyethylene bottles are readily available, convenient, and generally considered to be safer to use than their glass counterparts. They are extensively used for storage and dispensing most chemicals. Under normal conditions polyethylene bottles can be used almost indefinitely. However, based on DOE's findings precautions must be taken when using such bottles. The users of polyethylene bottles containing corrosive chemicals should follow the following minimum recommendations:

  1. Inspect all polyethylene reagent bottles for evidence of fatigue lines prior to using them.
  2. Replace polyethylene bottles that contain corrosives at regular intervals. The manufacturer of these bottles must be consulted for the appropriate frequency of replacing the bottle.

Please distribute this bulletin to all Area Offices, State Plan States and Consultation Project Officers.