Health And Safety

Activated carbon generally presents no particular health hazard as defined by NIOSH (55). However, it is a nuisance and mild irritant with respect to inhalation, skin contact, eye exposure, and ingestion. On the other hand, special consideration must be given to the handling of spent carbon that may contain a concentration of toxic compounds.

Activated carbon products used for decolorizing food products in liquid form must meet the requirements of the Food Chemical Codex as prepared by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council (56).

According to the National Board of Fire Underwriters, activated carbons normally used for water treatment pose no dust explosion hazard and are not subject to spontaneous combustion when confined to bags, drums, or storage bins (67). However, activated carbon burns when sufficient heat is applied; the ignition point varies between about 300 and 600 °C (58p.353).

Dust-tight electrical systems should be used in areas where activated carbon is present, particularly powdered products (58pp.84,85). When partially wet activated car bon comes into contact with unprotected metal, galvanic currents can be set up; these result in metal corrosion (59).

Manufacturer material safety data sheets (MSDS) indicate that the oxygen concentration in bulk storage bins or other enclosed vessels can be reduced by wet activated carbon to a level that will not support life. Therefore, self-contained air packs should be used by personnel entering enclosed vessels where activated carbon is present (60).

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