Lithium Borohydride Ignites Trash

What Happened?

A researcher was preparing an experiment with lithium borohydride, a water reactive chemical. He weighed the chemical and placed it into a beaker. Having checked the weighing paper for residuals, the researcher disposed of the paper into the general trash. Approximately a minute or two later, another member of the lab noticed that the trash was smoking and alerted other lab members. One of the lab-members grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher and extinguished the fire in the trash can. After the fire was extinguished, the researcher called the EH&S Hotline and reported the incident.

What Was The Cause?

A small amount of lithium borohydride left on weighing paper caused the fire.

What Corrective Actions Were Taken?

In this incident, the lab members took the correct action:

  • Co-workers were immediately notified when the fire was noticed
  • A CO2 fire extinguisher was used to extinguish the fire
  • The incident was reported to EH&S

How Can Incidents Like This Be Prevented?

Lithium borohydride in contact with water releases flammable gases which may ignite spontaneously.

  • Dispose weighing material that came in contact with borohydride into a dry container that can be disposed as chemical hazardous waste
  • Equipment and bench tops should be wiped off with ethanol

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  1. Locate your fire extinguisher
  2. Know how to operate a fire extinguisher
  3. When in doubt call 911
  4. Report any type of fire to your supervisor



  • Very hazardous to skin, eyes and lungs
  • Flammable
  • Emits flammable gases when in contact with water
  • Store dry in a tightly closed container