Chemical Carcinogens: Some Guidelines for Handling and Disposal in the Laboratory

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Provide secondary spill containment for all hazardous liquid chemicals. Use safety cans and approved chemical cabinets for storage of flammable and volatile liquids. Properly dispose of waste. Supervisors must be continually on the alert for infractions of the rules. Individuals may be careless or willfully disregard safety rules in the interest of speed or convenience, and such violations should be dealt with immediately.

Supervisors and administrators should bear in mind that they may be legally responsible for accidents or injuries in laboratories under their control. State law requires that every student, instructor, and visitor in a chemistry lab where experiments or demonstrations are being performed wear industrial quality eye protection devices. Approved eye protection for people handling chemicals must prevent both chemical splashes and flying particles e.

The minimum eye protection device that meets these requirements is goggles with hooded or indirectly ventilated ports. A face shield may be worn over goggles to further protect the face and neck areas. If a chemical is splashed in the eyes, they must be washed for a minimum for fifteen 15 minutes with running water.

Safety showers and eyewashes should be located within 75 feet of chemical hazards 20 feet if strong acids or bases are used. Eyewashes should be activated at least weekly by laboratory personnel to flush contaminants and verify proper operation. Any chemicals splashed on the skin should be rinsed off with plenty of fresh water. Bring an MSDS with you.

Hazardous material releases can be minimized by implementing proper controls such as: appropriate storage, secondary containment, safety cans, ventilated cabinets, carrying devices, etc. If an accident involving hazardous materials occurs which you know poses no immediate health concerns or danger of personal injury, try to keep the contaminant from spreading into the environment or entering drains by containing it with absorbent material. If the potential for personal danger does exist, secure and leave the area immediately, evacuate others from the dangerous area and notify the CU Police Department by calling Under no circumstances should a person reenter the area where a hazardous spill has occurred, where the possibility of personal danger exists.


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Laboratory glassware is fragile and should be handled properly to avoid injury. Always wear eye protection. When breaking tubing or inserting or removing tubing from stoppers, hands should be protected with towels or gloves. When inserting tubing into a stopper, be sure to choose a stopper with the appropriate hole size.

Laboratory Safety Guidelines

The tubing and holes should be lubricated with water or glycerin to ease insertion. While holding the stopper between the thumb and forefinger grasp the tubing close to point of insertion, apply force and slowly twist the tubing into the stopper. To remove tubing from a stopper, especially if the two have been in contact for some time, insert the small end of a spatula into the hole parallel with the tubing.

As an opening is generated, add water for lubrication. Avoid exerting pressure on the glass.

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If you are experiencing difficulty, seek the help of the instructor or supervisor. Any apparatus that can roll, such as thermometers, should be placed in appropriate holders. Do not use thermometers as a stirring tool. If a thermometer breaks, report it to your instructor immediately.

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A mercury spill requires special clean-up procedures. Mercury thermometers and manometers should be used over a water filled containment device to catch mercury in the event of a release. Substitute alcohol, mechanical, digital or other non-mercury temperature measuring devices wherever possible. Mercury spill waste materials, including contaminated glass, must be disposed of as hazardous waste.

Keep mercury separate from other collected hazardous wastes. Filter flasks and other glassware, and all other components used on vacuum filtration or pressure systems should be pressure rated for that application, heavy walled, and inspected for cracks or other imperfections before each use. Vacuum should be released from all parts of apparatus before disassembling.

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Protective shields should be in place for all pressure systems. Before using any chemical, you should familiarize yourself with the properties of that chemical and its hazards. Researchers should prepare MSDS for all compounds synthesized on campus. All chemical containers should be labeled with complete chemical names.

Do not use only abbreviations, codes or formulas. These must be analyzed, identified and then submitted for hazardous waste disposal if they cannot be used. All chemicals should be dated upon receipt and again upon opening. It is especially important that this procedure be done for all reactive and peroxide formers such as ethyl ether, tetrahydrofuran, etc. Keeping materials beyond their expiration dates is a hazardous waste regulatory violation.


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The National Fire Protection Association NFPA developed a standard labeling system to be able to readily recognize and easily understand markings which, at a glance, will give a general idea of the inherent hazards of any material and the order of severity of these hazards as they relate to fire prevention, exposure, and control.

The system identifies the hazards of a material in terms of three categories: Health blue , Flammability red , and Reactivity yellow. The inventory should be updated periodically to reflect changes. All chemicals are, to some degree, poisonous to the human body. Routes of entry include inhalation, skin and eye absorption, ingestion and injection.

Eating, drinking, smoking and the application of cosmetics are prohibited in the laboratory.

Chemical Handling Safety (The Basics)

All personnel should be properly trained in use and application of MSDS — knowledge of properties, reactivities and compatibilities of chemical constituents, proper design and use of apparatus, engineering controls and correct PPE. A first-in, first out FIFO inventory system should be adopted to control excess accumulation of chemicals and to prevent expired chemicals from automatically becoming regulated hazard wastes.

All users of hazardous materials are required by EPA law to recycle chemicals, purchase less toxic materials, or use smaller quantities and design procedures that reduce the volume and concentration of hazardous materials used and waste generated. All chemicals should be stored in closed containers compatible with the chemical inside. Chemicals should be returned to their proper storage place immediately after use. Chemicals should only be used with proper controls in place, e.

Chemical access and transportation should be limited to authorized personnel.

Bottles, when carried, should always be supported on the bottom and never carried by the neck. Use a carrying device such as a rubber bucket which provides secondary spill containment and breakage protection. Whenever possible, protective coated chemical bottles and glassware should be used. A sturdy step stool or ladder should be used when obtaining chemicals from upper shelves that are out of reach.

Proper grounding procedures should be used when transferring flammable liquids from one container to another, including distillation apparatus. Drums from which flammables are dispensed should be grounded. Also, the use of perchloric acid may require a specially designed and designated fume hood. A special license must be obtained and a training course completed before any radioactive materials may be used.

It is the responsibility of the supervisor, principal investigator and their department to arrange proper disposal of all hazardous materials prior to personnel relocations or facility closure. Transporting hazardous materials in vehicles involves extensive training for compliance with Federal, State, and local regulations. Chemicals must be stored in secured areas, i.

Highly toxic and reactive materials need additional means of security such as lockable cabinets. Whenever possible, protective coated chemical bottles and glassware should be purchased and used to reduce hazardous spills due to breakage.