Safety Services


Ethanol / Industrial Alcohol​

Ethanol is a natural byproduct of plant fermentation and also can be produced through the hydration of ethylene. Ethanol safety information below covers denatured alcohol and methylated spirit.

Why this substance is hazardous?​

Ingestion of alcohol in the short term leads to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, even respiratory paralysis. In the long-term, there is a risk from liver cirrhosis, cancers, nervous system disorders, and foetal alcohol syndrome.​

Exposure through inhalation or skin contact can be a source of localised irritation and symptoms of intoxication associated with acute occupational exposures to high concentrations of ethanol vapour cannot be excluded.​

There are additional risks as the UK regulations allow for alcohol to be used for industrial and scientific purposes without payment of excise duty, so long as it has been 'denatured' to make it undrinkable by the addition of poisons, or other additives that make it unpalatable or nauseating. This may result in vomiting and other symptoms if the denatured alcohol is ingested. ​

​It is also highly flammable​.


Can be used as a cleaning agent, in the preparation of indicator solution and reagents. It is used as the carrier liquid for perfumes, lotions and sprays and it can be used in fuels.​

Recommended control measures​


IDA (industrial denatured alcohol) and TSDA (trade specific denatured alcohol) require authorization to receive and use. Authorisation will be given for a certain amount to be received within a 12 month period by a location or department. It is the departments’ responsibility to apply, hold and enforce this authorization.

> Apply for a chemical licence

The licence is applied for and held by the department​

Ethanol is corrosive and stainless steel is recommended for bulk storage while glass is recommended for lab storage.  If storing in bulk, the same precaution taken for storing fuels such as petrol should be in place, including appropriate fire rating and impact resistance.​

Health surveillance ​

No health surveillance is required but if you would like further information about alcohol abuse please look at the UCL Alcohol and Drugs Policy​. 

> UCL alcohol and drug policy

Chemical safety library

> Read more about control measures for chemicals in our chemical safety library

Last updated: Tuesday, June 23, 2020