Acetone, How I Love Thee

We use almost an entire 55 gallon drum of reagent grade acetone every 12 hour shift I work. There’s a bunker outside the main facility away from everything else. If the bunker ever caught fire somehow I’m certain it would explode and level anything around it. Each night I have to make about a half dozen trips to the bunker to load up 5 gallon plastic bottles with acetone from the 55 gallon drums. I wear a chemical suit and put on a respirator with different air filters from the ones we use on machine T/As. These filters are for fumes rather than dust particles. As I get to the bunker’s main doorway I unlock a burly old padlock holding a rusty chain through the door and the frame. Once I step inside the room it reminds me of a level in Doom. There’s barrels jam packed everywhere and it’s tough to move around.

I take a rollaway cart and a bunch of these goofy looking plastic bottles to fill up. There is a hand crank pump I carefully bolt into place on the top of an acetone barrel and I have to keep everything grounded. They’re worried about something sparking and causing a fire/explosion. After the pump is in place I mindlessly crank away until each bottle is filled up and capped. A few times during the process I’ve taken a full on whiff of the fumes from the 55 gallon drum and it almost knocked me over. I couldn’t breathe for a couple of seconds and it made my body react by trying to gasp for air. It was a really weird feeling. Normally I kinda like the smell of acetone fumes but when it’s that overpowering I can see why it’s potentially dangerous. The other thing I’ve noticed about acetone that is sort of neat is how cold it feels on my hands when I spill it over my gloves. I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with it.

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~ by factorypeasant on October 30, 2004.

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