Handling and disposal of toxic laboratory chemicals

Careful handling of laboratory chemicals is everyone’s responsibility

A laboratory is a safe place to work provided recommended practices are followed in safe handling and disposal of laboratory chemicals. It is of utmost importance that you should be aware of the hazard potential of chemicals that you are required to use in any study. The best source of such information is the Material Safety data sheet of the material. It gives all relevant details on chemical properties, toxicity, remedies on exposure, etc. However, it is more important to adhere to the listed hazards and preventive measures in full earnest.

Storage

On receipt toxic materials should be stored in a segregated toxic material storage room and under prescribed storage conditions. Only small quantities sufficient to meet the requirements of experimental studies should be stored inside laboratories. Special cabinets labeled toxic materials should be used for storage of such chemicals taking care that chemicals stocked on each shelf are compatible with one another.Storage cabinets should be made of fire resistant materials and necessary arrangements should be in place for restricted access with log records on consumption.

Personal Hygiene

Commitment to good hygiene practices is essential for your safety as well safety of your co-workers and even your family and friends outside the laboratory.

Remove finger rings and any other jewellery items whenever your work involves use of hazardous and toxic chemicals. Wash your hands before leaving the laboratory so that you do not risk contamination while consuming foods, drinks or smoking.

  • Keep your finger nails trimmed
  • Remove laboratory wear and shoes before moving out of laboratory even for using wash room facilities.
  • Do not use mobile phones as it can lead to contamination of the device which may be used subsequently by your family and friends.
  • Avoid nose picking or touching your eyes, ears or lips with contaminated hands.
  • Do not consume eatables and drinks while inside the laboratory.
  • Laboratory wear should not be taken home and washed alongwith other garments as it can lead to contamination of such garments.

Personal Protection

Wearing of a laboratory coat is mandatory for all laboratory workers but if you have to handle dangerous chemicals additional protection becomes necessary. Make use of appropriate gloves, safety glasses and facial respirators.

Broken glassware, syringes, needles or other sharps should be handled very carefully so that pricks or cuts can be avoided from such items which could already be contaminated and transfer the toxic chemicals through skin abrasions and cuts.

Disposal

Disposal of hazardous and toxic chemicals demands concern for the local population as well as for the environment. Disposed items can fall into the hands of unsuspecting individuals such as garbage collection staff, solid waste disposal agencies, etc who lack awareness on associated hazards. The material should be disposed only using the recommended disposal procedures and care should be exercised to not dispose such chemicals or liquids into the laboratory wash basins and drains. The discharge carbuoys should be labeled appropriately with warning stickers. All laboratory spills of such materials should be attended to on top priority so that other laboratory workers and unsuspecting visitors can be protected from associated hazards.

In addition to the suggested measures periodic laboratory safety audits are recommended. It should be ascertained that fire extinguishers, water sprinklers, eye fountains, smoke detectors, etc are in working order.

In summary it can be said that use of common sense and compliance with safety instructions can help protect you and your laboratory co-workers from laboratory accidents and other harm from toxic laboratory chemicals.

About Dr. Deepak Bhanot

Dr Deepak Bhanot is a seasoned professional having nearly 30 years expertise beginning from sales and product support of analytical instruments. After completing his graduation and post graduation from Delhi University and IIT Delhi he went on to Loughborough University of Technology, UK for doctorate research in analytical chemistry. His mission is to develop training programs on analytical techniques and share his experiences with broad spectrum of users ranging from professionals engaged in analytical development and research as well as young enthusiasts fresh from academics who wish to embark upon a career in analytical industry.

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  1. Thank you for giving this message.. very useful..

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