Zinc is a special metal primarily used for “galvanizing,” which means electroplating or coating the surface of corrosive metals like iron and alloys like steel (a mixture of iron and carbon) with zinc to prevent rusting.
Likewise, zinc is useful in the automobile and electrical industries for producing die-castings.
So, in this article, we will inspect zinc, discover whether zinc is flammable, as well as discuss other significant facts you should know about zinc.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is a bluish-white element (metal) that belongs to group IIB in the periodic table. Zinc dust is a bluish-white or bluish-grey powder.
Both pure zinc and alloys of zinc have a wide range of uses in many industries. And sometimes, certain forms of zinc can be ingested by humans.
However, burning zinc can be toxic if you inhale it. This is because when inhaled, zinc can trigger a short-lived health condition known as “metal fume fever—a flu-like ailment which induces metallic taste in the mouth, causing irritations.”
Thus, you need to be very careful when handling any form of zinc. Ensure this metal does not come in contact with your skin, eyes, throat, nose, etc. Plus, you can put on protective clothing such as long coats or gloves to ensure maximum safety while using zinc.
Now, what’s next? Let’s dig deeper into the concept of zinc and find out if it is flammable or not.
Is Zinc Flammable?
Zinc is a flammable substance that belongs to hazard class 4.3! Just like flammable vinyl, zinc catches fire readily and can even result in a fire explosion if care is not taken.
Moreso, zinc is a strong reducing agent which reacts vigorously with steam, oxidants, and air. Owing to this, zinc is described as a water-reactive substance.
And because of the high reactivity of zinc with steam, water is unsuitable for quenching any fire instigated by it. This is because water would kindle a zinc fire rather than attempting to extinguish it.
Foam is neither a good option for putting out a zinc fire. Only dry chemicals can effectively suppress fires started by zinc.
While extinguishing a zinc fire, you might breathe in some of its fumes. Meanwhile, zinc fumes are poisonous and hazardous to the health of humans. Therefore, contact your doctor immediately if you breathe in zinc fumes.
Your eyes can also develop irritation if you expose them to a zinc fire for a long time. The moment you notice an eye irritation, rinse off your eyes with clean, running water. However, you can contact your doctor if symptoms persist.
Can Zinc Burn?
Yes, just like flammable styrofoam, zinc can burn or combust spontaneously in the presence of air (especially damp zinc powder or zinc dust). Plus, zinc burns in the air with a characteristic bluish-green flame, giving off fumes of zinc oxide along with hydrogen gas.
Aside from being extremely flammable, zinc dust can also pose an explosion threat. Hence, make sure you keep your home or working areas free of zinc dust to prevent an unexpected fire outbreak.
Will Zinc Metal Catch Fire?
Unlike zinc powder, zinc metal is reluctant to burn. Zinc metal can catch flames when subjected to strong heating.
Zinc metal burns with a blue-green flame and gives off zinc oxide. With the help of professional firefighters, you can extinguish a zinc metal fire by using dry chemicals, sand, or a powdered extinguisher.
What Is The Melting Point Of Zinc?
Zinc exhibits the typical nature of metals. And just like all metallic elements that have higher melting points, zinc has a high melting point of 787.1°F.
Additionally, zinc is a hard but brittle-textured metal which makes it stand out in the world of metals. Zinc combines with other metals to form brilliant alloys because of its special quality.
What Happens When You Expose Zinc To Air For A Long Time?
If you expose zinc to moist air for a long period, it corrodes slowly and becomes dull in appearance. During zinc’s slow corrosion process, a film-like substance that accounts for its dull appearance is formed.
With time, a thin-film carbonate coating also covers the surface of zinc exposed to moist air.
Common Forms of Zinc and Their Flammability Verdicts.
Out there, several industries use zinc for different purposes like roofing, galvanizing, photography, and lots more. Most times, people wonder if these forms of zinc are flammable like the powder. Let’s look at some of them below:
- Zinc Cladding.
Zinc claddings are metal claddings used in shingles and metal panels for building walls, roofing, and even rain screens. You can learn more about it in this article so that we can focus on its flammability here.
Well… zinc cladding is solid zinc metals and is neither flammable nor combustible. According to the Euroclass Rating system, zinc claddings fall under the Euroclass A1 category. So, they are relatively safe to use.
- Mossy Zinc.
Unlike zinc claddings, mossy zinc is lumpy or sponge-like in appearance. According to the American element manufacturing company, mossy zinc is a granulated zinc used in chemistry experiments.
To make one, you need to melt ordinary zinc and then mix its molten form with water. According to the Fisher Scientific corporation, mossy zinc is in the NFPA flammability level 1.
This, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), means that mossy zinc is normally stable and non-flammable under ordinary conditions. But under high heat and pressure, mossy zinc can become explosive. So, handle with care.
- Zinc Sulfate.
Zinc sulfate is a common zinc compound used to treat zinc deficiency. But when abused, it can cause abdominal pain, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
That said, zinc sulfate itself doesn’t catch fire or burn under ordinary conditions, says its safety data sheet. Even if you burn it, it only smolders. At about 12560F, it then decomposes into sulfur oxide and zinc oxide. These two gases are toxic.
- Zinc Alloy.
Zinc alloy is a mixture of zinc and other metals like aluminum and others. Bronze is the most common alloy in zinc.
The flammability of the zinc alloy depends on the type of metal used in the alloy. For instance, zinc-aluminum dust can become highly explosive.
- Zinc Oxide.
Zinc oxide is another compound of zinc. Many industries use it as pigments in watercolors, paints plastics, cosmetics, printing ink, and even wallpapers.
In terms of flammability, zinc oxide is not flammable. But like zinc sulfate, it produces toxic zinc oxide fumes.
Why Is Zinc Dust So Explosive?
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, a combustible dust cloud often has particles with a size ratio greater than 420 microns. When these particles get in the air, you can easily ignite them and some of them can explode.
The resulting explosion, in the science world, is what we call a dust explosion. Sometimes it can happen spontaneously in a very concentrated dust cloud, and almost every solid can explode this way when grounded into finely powdered particles.
As for zinc, its explosion can be a bit overboard compared to flour. Because normally, zinc is a reducing agent that reacts violently with a strong oxidizer and it produces hydrogen gas with acids and bases.
In case you don’t know, hydrogen is so inflammable that even the slightest ignition can cause it to go kablooey. With enough zinc dust and small particles, the reactive nature of zinc increases because the reaction surface area is now higher and so is the explosion.
Besides the whole dust explosion thing, zinc powder is also a water-reactive pyrophoric substance.
That means bulk zinc dust can raise its own temperature. When this spontaneously heated dust cloud comes in contact with air, it can ignite and explode within minutes.
Health Hazards Of Zinc.
Zinc is an important element needed to supply the body with some nutrients. In some nutritional supplements, zinc is an indispensable ingredient.
However, zinc can be toxic when consumed in some concentrations. Excessive intake of zinc or large doses of zinc can trigger some health conditions such as nausea, skin irritation, stomach aches, anemia, vomiting, and many more.
A very high concentration of zinc in the body can disturb the body’s protein metabolism and damage the pancreas. A serious health condition known as “arteriosclerosis” can also surface.
In a nutshell, zinc is flammable and should be handled with extra care. We believe this article will answer all the questions you might have about zinc and its flammability.
However, if you’re curious about the safety precautions to observe while handling zinc, study the tips below:
- Store zinc dust in well-ventilated compartments.
- Ensure you don’t breathe in zinc fumes or expose your eyes to it for a long time.
- Avoid skin contact with zinc.
You can also visit here to check out the safety data sheet for zinc.