Photograph via snooOG

Come here to talk about all things lab safety! Share articles, gripes, offer help, and maybe we can actually make our labs safer places to work.

Labs can be dangerous places, least of all because it's so easy to forget how dangerous they can be.

Come here for lab safety news, discussion, questions, venting, horror stories, and support.








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Urgent: is it ok to store ethanol in fume hood overnight

Hi guys I am mixing ethanol and water with some polymers and nanoparticles. Before leaving the lab I looked at the msds for ethanol. Is it ok to leave this mixture in the fume hood overnight? I don’t want to cause a fire.

04:48 UTC


Working with concentrated acids.

I am working with highly concentrated ascorbic acid, acetic acid, lactic acid, formic acid, oxalic acid, concentrations of 75-80% except the ascorbic acid, oxalic acid and, acetic acid are 100%. Would it be a good idea to keep a weak base solution (I have sodium hydroxide and sodium borate that I could mix with water) in case of a spill or splash to help neutralize the acids or will flushing with tons of water be plenty?

Obviously I will be wearing Thick gloves, safety goggles, long sleeves and an apron. I am just wondering if that could be helpful in case there is any skin contact.

22:58 UTC


Hello. This is not my very first lab exp.

Hello, I am an amateur. In my very first little tries always weared at least gloves and glasses. OK I was naked the rest. Just kidding. I am here to aks for gloves resistant to both acid (sulphuric) and cut, blades. Not going to spend a lot. $ Nitrile kinda scares me cause it drops in shreds very easily. Also common dish washing rubber no good.


16:43 UTC


Need to work with IMS (Industrial Methylated Spirits / Ethyl Alcohol) Safely - Need some help

Hi, I am working with this substance for optics cleaning. I have 1L of it, which is unsafe to work with, so I intend to put some into a 30ml LDPE squeeze plastic bottle (I'll do this outside with a plastic funnel) and work with that.
It would basically involve putting a small amount from the bottle onto a cotton or foam bud, or paper/polyester cloth and applying it.
I need to work with it in a well-lit area. I work with gloves, safety chemical mask, but it is a homespace, I don't have lab facilities.
How can I work with this safely? As it has a very low flash point, and the fumes are heavier than air, I am concerned about how to prevent a flash fire.
Are wall power sockets, light bulbs, modems, printers and the type of things you work with in a typical office a danger?

21:48 UTC


Free lab safety poster resources?

Hello! New lab manager here for a very small lab. I'm trying to get our lab in better shape and also have good information posted for future interns. Any websites you'd recommend or any posters you'd like to share? We are located in the US, in Tennessee.

Thanks everyone!

15:20 UTC


Rotovap safety

Im a PhD student and am concerned about our rotovap setup. At my previous university, all rotovaps were vented to fume hoods but this is so not practical in my current lab (all hood space in use, rotovaps on counters). The vacuums just vent to large plastic containers (that never catch anything and are just for show). We have 6 rotovaps in constant use and hardly anyone uses heat, they just use vacuum and of course most of this just gets vented into the lab as the solvents boil from the vacuum in the collection flask. Is this as big of a hazard as I think it is?

This is the way this lab has been operating for a long time but I am now the safety officer and can make changes. We could just run tubing to the ceiling then down to a hood. Most other rotovaps in other labs I have seen here are properly vented or entirely contained in a hood. Our safety office has never noted this on an inspection.

TL;DR: Is it acceptable for rotovap vacuum pumps to be vented into the lab or do they need to be vented to a hood?

19:08 UTC


Wearable Lead detection for metals testing

Is there a wearable Lead detector that shows exposure to Lead containing chemicals that someone had come into contact with? We currently get monthly blood tests but are looking at other options.

14:36 UTC


Isofluorane leak in the lab for who knows how long, plus other concerns

Hi all,

I just learned of this sub from r/labrats and boy do I have questions about lab safety! I joined my lab not-so-long ago and I quickly became suspicious of some of the health problems faced by people in my lab. Mainly this one lab member who gets rashes all the time and claims they never had them before they joined the lab. Another lab member claims to have a persistent cough whenever they come into the lab.

Looking around the lab I identified two potential culprits for these issues:

  1. Mold. The lab doesn't properly drip-dry anything, everything just lives on a wet puppy pad that gets changed maybe never. Ice buckets are just put back on a shelf without drying properly. I have seen mold growth in multiple places in the lab (mainly on the puppy pads). I have mentioned this to lab staff and nothing gets done. It is not my job to clean up mold but lately I have been considering just sucking it up to change all these pads because I don't want to get sick myself.
  2. There is a big "waste" bucket, filled to the brim with various powders, sitting on a lab bench behind my desk (not ventilated or covered). The other day a postdoc put his arm down on this lab bench, somewhat near the waste bucket, and immediately broke out in a rash. I mentioned to lab staff that this powder waste should probably be contained and nothing was done about it. Again, this is not my job and I don't know what kinds of powders are contained in this waste bucket nor how to properly store them.

And now for the grand winner...

The following is a cross-post that I originally posted in r/labrats, and discusses the main issue I am dealing with in my lab:

Recently a lab member became ill while performing surgeries. I don't know the details but this led to someone inspecting the surgery room for an iso gas leak and it was discovered that the iso levels in the room were more than 20 ppm. This is about ten times higher than the maximum recommended exposure.

I have a few questions and concerns and am wondering if anyone has answers to any of these:

  1. I have seen some websites say that this can affect reproductive health but am having trouble finding a source for this. Is this a real, documented thing? Multiple members of the lab are actively trying to conceive.
  2. One lab member has been experiencing frequent rashes since they joined the lab. They do not perform surgeries but they are frequently in the room adjacent to the surgery room. Any possible connection here?
  3. Can it be assumed that the mice housed in this room are likely suffering health effects from this constant iso exposure, and probably should not be used in experiments?
  4. Can someone be held legally responsible for this, should there be long-term health effects that can be attributed to the leak? Specifically, can the lab, PI, or institution be sued if someone suffers long-term health effects? The inspectors put blame on the gas flow set-up which suggests that whoever set this up is potentially at fault.

Thanks all. BTW this is a throw-away since I'm trying to remain anonymous as I gather answers. Many people in my lab use reddit and probably frequent this sub.

For the record, I realize after typing this that I need to GET OUT OF THIS LAB. I am making plans to do this but I worry about the people who will not have such an easy time leaving. Who can I talk to about this? Clearly there are lab safety issues coming out the walls here and no one in the lab seems to want to deal with them.

03:10 UTC


Storing unknown, fuming liquids

Someone told me they found two containers without a label on them. He would like to dispose the chemicals as safely as possible but that is quite difficult to do if you don't know what exactly you're dealing with.

At that point I was searching for a specific subject for a project for my analytical chemistry education. In the beginning of 2019 I together with a few other students will have to come up with something for a project.

This seemed like good opportunity. Starting with two unknown chemicals and trying to figure out what they are. So I asked if the person who contacted me if he could take some samples. He took two samples of approximately 500 ml each.

Now I will have to store the two samples for several months in the lab. I will have to ask what is possible (which I'll do as soon as I arrive there). I would say storing them in a fume cupboard would be the best option but they are used quite frequently. Because of that I am afraid that even if I put a label on it that people would try to move it which brings the danger of people dropping it in which case I would be at least partially responsible. To be honest I am not exactly sure how to handle this.

Any idea of how I could do this safely?

06:02 UTC


What kind of face protection would be recommended when synthesizing Marquis (CH2O+2SO4 at a 100:5 ratio)?

Mostly wondering what sort of mask is necessary to protect against the fumes.

Thanks in advance!

16:34 UTC


How do I get hired as an EH&S officer?

I have a bachelor's in Chemical engineering, will be getting a Master's in December. Undergrad work included, I have 7 years in the lab.

I am the lab safety delegate for my lab group, and I kind of enjoy it.

My background is in molecular biology, a lot of work with E.coli and yeast, some HEK293 work.

How do I find a job in that field of work, what are similar jobs that I should consider? What can I do before I graduate to make myself a more competitive applicant?

Thank you for any and all advice.

04:45 UTC


I accidentally dropped some Thioglycolic acid on my fingers during my lab examinations. Nothing happened at that time but when I got home i found my fingers to feel very smooth and the upper layer of my skin is getting lose. If I rub my fingers the skin would easily peel off. So what should I do?

03:44 UTC


We don’t have an EH&S Officer. Is that weird?

I work in a lab at a research institute affiliated with a pretty large hospital. My lab does cancer research and we moved here from another institute. I tried to get in contact with an Environmental Health & Safety Officer to answer some questions I had, and it turns out we don’t have one. I got cc’d on a few emails until I was eventually told that they’d get back to me. It’s been three months and we still don’t have one.

Is this uncommon? I’ve worked in two other labs previously who took safety very seriously, and others I’ve talked to seem shocked when I tell them we don’t have a safety officer here. I assumed it was a requirement to have one, but I don’t actually know if that’s true. There have been some clear OSHA violations from lab personnel we share bench space with. I’ve seen people weigh antineoplastic drugs out in the lab (not in the chemical hoods and without warning people), tips being disposed of in the trash, so many unlabeled chemical waste containers being stored in the fume hoods to the point that they’re unusable and people instead choose to use volatile solvents out on the bench, we don’t have a separate chemo waste container, we don’t have a laundry service for our lab coats so we have a pile of dirty lab coats and most people just don’t wear one at all. I’m not crazy in thinking this is totally not ok, right?

00:49 UTC


WHYY/NPR Story Request - Lab Animals

The Pulse is a health and science radio show and podcast produced out of WHYY, the NPR station in Philly. We're currently putting together a show about animals in the lab. It's about what animals contribute to science -- what we can learn from them, how we treat them, etc.

We're looking for some stories from scientists, students, and PhD candidates about their experiences with lab animals (dead or alive) -- that time all of your fruit flies got mites, you had to dissect a frog and couldn’t do it, you forgot to feed the zebra fish, or the guinea pig seemed depressed.

Do you work in a lab and have a story? Shoot me an email, and I'll send you instructions on sending us a short voice memo. My email is astern@whyy.org

I'd also be super grateful if you could pass this along to any friends and communities that you think might have some stories for us as well.

19:20 UTC


Calibration Gas Bottle Safety Question (or: can I pleaaaaasee leave my regulators on over the weekend?)

This should be a simple question, but neither university, industry, or regulatory sources are helping me out here.

A long-running dispute at my workplace concerns compressed gas bottle storage and use.

The short version is: given that we have a very large and well-ventilated facility, is it acceptable to leave regulators on indefinitely for well-secured bottles of non-toxic and non-flammable gas that experience sporadic use and usually have a lifespan of about a year?

The lonnger version is: These are calibration bottles for combustion gas analyzers. They are very well secured, and only moved when empty and being replaced.

Everything is N2 balance, and our commonly used bottles are up to 20% CO2, 5% CO (more on that in a moment), and PPM values of trace gases. They are used a few times a day during projects that require them, and projects last between a day and a few weeks. Intervals between projects range from zero to perhaps two months.

Regarding CO toxicity and O2 depletion: the worst-case has happened before: a regulator was left running on a 5% CO bottle overnight, completely emptying it straight into the building. Still, the facility is large enough that none of the dozen CO monitors went off. We tested them afterwards, and sampled CO all around the building the next day, and could not find anything over 50 PPM. O2 levels were all normal as well.

That happened once in the five years that we never capped our non-flammable bottles, so it's fair to say that we're pretty good about remembering to close our valves.

Given this, I think that it is reasonable to leave the regulators on for at least the duration of any project, and I see no hazard in leaving them on between projects as well. I think that the safety hazards of repeated removal and reinstallation exceed those of static installation.

Is there any documentation to support this? I can't find anything, but virtually every university lab I've walked past during an evening or weekend has bottles with the regulators left on, so there must be some policy, somewhere, that allows for this.

1 Comment
17:46 UTC


Lab not cleaning the floors

Hi, I work for a major pharmaceutical company and at my site they refuse to clean the floors in the laboratory (BSL1, standard protein engineering research lab-no gmp ,etc). Safety of the cleaning people is cited as the main reason the floors cannot be cleaned regularly.

Is this really true? I've worked in a bunch of other places in california where the labs were swept and mopped weekly. What the hell is going on?

06:09 UTC


Share your animal perfusion setup? My lab insists on not using a hood.

Hi all, my new lab insists that we cannot do our perfusions of mice in the hood because "there is no room" and "it's too hard to set up" or something. The lax attitude around paraformaldehyde is really getting on my nerves. Can you share a picture or description of how your lab's perfusion is set up? Our setup is simply a table with a dissection scope, light source, and two bags (PFA bag + wash bag) tied to rope hung over a beam from the ceiling. The rope is tied around the foot of the table. The smell of PFA leaks into hallway outside the room and also leaks into a neighboring room (shared door) where experimental mice are kept. The room is also extremely tiny and contains a dirty cage collection cabinet, so the smell can be outright horrific. Any suggestions?

01:52 UTC


Safety recommendations when working with formaline?

I work in an ecology lab and use formaline for preserving specimens. I use the hood when working with it but expose myself for a few seconds when emptying the content (formaline+water) in a bigger container. Is using the hood enough protection from it? Does working in this lab for a year now increase my risk of developing cancer due to the formaline exposure?

On one occasion, another undergraduate student was handling it without using the hood. And this occurred when I was first on the job and no one told me they were using such substance. I worked while inhaling those vapors for approximately 1 hour.... I felt dizzy that day. What safety measures do you recommend in addition to using the hood, goggles, gloves, and lab coat? Thanks in advance. My supervisor hasn't trained me adequately on using this substance.

02:38 UTC


Can Anyone recommend good safety glasses that are comfortable over spectacles?

Hi guys,

I'm struggling to find decent safety glasses that are comfortable to wear over spectacles. it seems most companies that make safety glasses only have their crappy budget model that are suitable for over-spectacles wear. has anyone found a good solution to this?

16:54 UTC


Would a Respirator Mask solve this issue?

Ive lately been working on a project and Ive had to spray the area Im in with high proof alcohol. Im using Isopropyl Alcohol 91%. Im told I dont need to worry as long as I dont ingest any by accident but I dont know if I trust that. Not just that but the smell is pretty strong as you can imagine and since Im having to spray a whole area and stay in that area while Im doing so to cover everything Im worried if it may become overwhelming after a while. Would a respirator mask remedy this issue or an I overthinking it? And by that I mean any effect inhaling the smell would have?

Also would a respirator mask help with the strong smell or no?

05:03 UTC

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