Chemical makeup

Viewing 7 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #133169
      L. James Hansmann
      Participant

      We have an old bottle, rather small, the interior of which is lined with a milky substance and there are flakes of this milky substance in the bottle. What methods are available to determine what the substance is. The bottle has no markings. Would a reputable pharmicist be able and/or willing to look at it?

    • #133176
      Ron Kley
      Participant

      From your description it sounds as if you’re dealing with a solid residue left behind by the evaporation of a liquid, and it sounds as if you suspect that the stuff is (or was originally) of a pharmaceutical nature. Is the bottle sealed? Can it be opened to extract a sample of the white stuff? If some can be extracted you might persuade someone at a nearly university to run an x-ray spectrographic anaysis.
      Because the chemical/pharmaceutical universe includes a great many white substances ranging in nature from inert to harmless to illegal and even to deadly, I doubt that you’d find any pharmacist, chemist or other potential authority willing to offer more than a very informal opinion (e.g., “could be residue from milk of magnesia — or not”). But they would be going out on a limb if their guess turned out to be seriously or even tragically wrong.

    • #133175
      L. James Hansmann
      Participant

      Yes the bottle can be opened. In fact the screw on lid is so rusted that tiny flakes of the residue have escaped so I am eager to isolate it and determine what it might be. Milk of magnesia, since you mention it, was a thought I had as well.

    • #133174
      Mary M Fahey
      Member

      Be careful! I few years ago we found a jar of picric acid. Which can be very unstable. We used a local chemical disposal firm to neutralize and remove it when the museum was closed to the public. I was told that the mere act of unscrewing the lid could have caused a small explosion. This was confirmed by a chemist from a local university whose colleague leaned this the hard way.

    • #133173
      Mary M Fahey
      Member

      Be careful! I few years ago we found a jar of picric acid. Which can be very unstable. We used a local chemical disposal firm to neutralize and remove it when the museum was closed to the public. I was told that the mere act of unscrewing the lid could have caused a small explosion. This was confirmed by a chemist from a local university whose colleague leaned this the hard way.

    • #133172
      Mary M Fahey
      Member

      Be careful! I few years ago we found a jar of picric acid. Which can be very unstable. We used a local chemical disposal firm to neutralize and remove it when the museum was closed to the public. I was told that the mere act of unscrewing the lid could have caused a small explosion. This was confirmed by a chemist from a local university whose colleague leaned this the hard way.

    • #133171
      Ron Kley
      Participant

      I’ll vouch for the instability and potentially explosive quality of picric acid — and I have my own hospital records to prove it. Picric, however, is a light lemon yellow color and granular, so it doesn’t correspond to the description of a flaky white residue. Nevertheless, your comment underscores the kinds of danger that can be posed by unknown chemical/pharmaceutical substances. Most are benign; some are anything but. Satisfying one’s intellectual curiosity about such stuff may not be worth the cost.

    • #133170
      Sharon Bell
      Member

      I chair the collections comittee of an historic house museum, and happen to be a volunteer with a masters in microbiology. When we had a similar problem with a bottle, I contacted a chemistry professor at the local college. He identified the material and arranged for disposal and cleaning of the bottle, even preserving the label remnants.

Viewing 7 reply threads
  • The forum ‘C2C Community Archives – 2012 through 2014’ is closed to new topics and replies.