Derek Lowe keeps a blog, that alone wouldn't be news worthy but his blog is the home of Things I Won't Work With, a fascinating look at chemicals so noxious, so volatile that even the names will make amateur chemists flinch.
Such things as:
Everyone knows hydrogen peroxide, HOOH. And if you know it, you also know that it's well-behaved in dilute solution, and progressively less so as it gets concentrated. The 30% solution will go to work immediately bleaching you out if you are so careless as to spill some on you, and the 70% solution, which I haven't seen in years, provides an occasion to break out the chain-mail gloves.
When we last checked in with the Klapötke lab at Munich, it was to highlight their accomplishments in the field of nitrotetrazole oxides. Never forget, the biggest accomplishment in such work is not blowing out the lab windows.
And a hard core it is! This stuff was first prepared in Germany in 1932 by Ruff and Menzel, who must have been likely lads indeed, because it's not like people didn't respect fluorine back then. No, elemental fluorine has commanded respect since well before anyone managed to isolate it, a process that took a good fifty years to work out in the 1800s. (The list of people who were blown up or poisoned while trying to do so is impressive). And that's at room temperature.
Has anyone here had to work with any of these?
Came here to say the same thing about organomercury compounds. Famous case of the death of a chemistry from this stuff:
I'd never work with any such chemical...my kids need a dad.
Probably would not be first to volunteer to work with Ebola patients in West Africa, either.
But, the VAST majority of chemicals are relatively safe to work with, provided adequate measures are taken.
My worst experience was using a base bath to clean glassware. The base bath was highly concentrated sodium hydroxide (lye / drano to most folks) and the neoprene gloves I was using had a hole in them. I didn't notice the hole until I noticed the skin on one of my fingers itching pretty badly. I took the gloves off to find that my middle finger was already in the process of dissolving. Nice. Lots of water and some careful attention and I'm scar-free today, but that stuff still scares me a little. It dissolves fat very well, and the oils on that finger were long gone by the time I caught it. My skin felt like a 90-year-old man's for over a week.
I'm never without my goggles and always checking my gloves these days.
Heh heh... gloves. You need to get you some chloroacetone. What no-one tells you is it passes right through them and hurts like a sonovabitch. They also don't tell you it was used in WW1 as a chemical agent. But that's university for ya! Figure it out yourself, you're the student.