Is nitric acid a reducing agent

Department of biology, chemistry, pharmacy

Some fuming nitric acid is poured into a latex disposable glove suspended from a tripod clamp. Within a few seconds the glove ignites and burns down.

Learning goals:

Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell from the GHS pictogram whether an oxidizing agent is only able to intensify existing fires, or whether it is itself a fire-triggering agent. You can only find out from the "small print":

  • H270 May cause or intensify fire; Oxidizing agent.
  • H271 May cause fire or explosion; strong oxidizing agent.
  • H272 May intensify fire; Oxidizing agent.


  • It is somewhat worrying when even a "protective glove" is set on fire. Now, latex disposable gloves are not at all suitable because of their resistance to smoking nitric acid, which hardly lasts for a few seconds. But if you simulate a more realistic scenario in which some nitric acid is poured or dripped over a thick, non-disposable glove, you will not have to reckon with an inflammation - but with the fact that the glove is "through" fairly quickly - and therefore immediately removed got to. It is therefore safer to wear 2 pairs of gloves on top of each other when handling smoking nitric acid, namely under normal thick protective gloves additionally Disposable gloves.
  • Latex does not burn off completely, but forms disgusting smelly, greasy residue that falls off the burning glove when you try. The bowl below is easier to clean if you fill it with a little water before trying.