The consequences of chemical mismanagement

Disposal of expired peroxide-formers is hazardous and costly; learn what's involved so you can plan to prevent it.

27 September 2021

In the spring of 2021, Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) discovered containers of expired peroxide formers in several U of A laboratories. These substances, when dry, form highly hazardous shock-sensitive crystals, which may explode upon contact. 

Because of the considerable risks associated with transporting and disposing of expired peroxide formers, HSE enlisted the help of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Explosives Disposal Unit and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services (EFRS) in a major undertaking that was both disruptive to campus activities and resource-intensive.

Campus closures

The disposal events, which involved the controlled detonation of chemicals at two locations on North Campus, required the closure of numerous buildings and roads:

  • Full or partial closures of NINT, Mec ENG, one floor of CME, CCIS, pedways between NINT/Mec ENG and CME/ETLC, Chemistry East and West, Earth Sciences Building, Head House, Cameron Library 
  • Road closures around NINT/Engineering buildings, loading docks for Engineering, Biosciences, NINT, and Chemistry East 

Time and personnel

Approximately 50 people assisted with the event, both in the days leading up to and during the disposal:

  • At least 30 representatives from HSE, F&O, External Relations, Protective Services, and Emergency Management participated in site visits and assisted in protecting people and property
  • Ten firefighters, including five hazardous materials specialists, assisted in the disposal and provided backup support
  • Six members of the EPS Explosives Disposal Unit conducted the disposal and provided backup support
  • Two paramedics attended as medical responders

Plan for safe handling and disposal

Ultimately, while the disposal was a success, it was also hazardous, disruptive, and resource-intensive. If you are planning to work with peroxide forming chemicals, follow the steps below to handle, store, and dispose of them safely—before they expire:

  1. Review the Chemical Storage Guidelines and Peroxide Forming Chemicals Program and adhere to recommended safety practices. 
  2. Label bottles of peroxide formers with the dates they were received, opened, and when they should be disposed of through Chematix—no more than two years after the date of receipt. Note this in your inventory as well so that expired bottles aren’t forgotten. 
  3. Regularly inspect your chemicals; dispose of those that are approaching expiration

For more information about working with hazardous materials, visit or contact