Debbie Knight

Photo of the week

In photo log on February 1, 2012 at 9:00 am

This is a photo of chemicals sitting on a laboratory shelf in a lab that I am helping to clean out (the researcher left the university abruptly).

There are several things to note about the chemicals in this lab (especially in this photo).

  • This is an example of how not to store chemicals safely (at least according to my university’s regulations). Why? These chemicals are stored alphabetically without regard to their hazard designation. While it makes the chemicals easy to find, it is oh so wrong. The chemicals should be separated according to their specific hazard categories — category I chemicals should not be stashed next to category IV chemicals, acids should not be stored next to bases, etc.
  • As I made an inventory of the chemicals, I noted that most of the chemicals were purchased from Sigma Chemical Company.  The same is true of my lab. I’m not sure why — is it Sigma’s expansive catalog of chemicals? The company’s reputation? I’m not sure.

Some of these chemicals will be redistributed to other researchers — some in our department and some through the university’s chemical redistribution program (which helps reduce the cost of research by redistributing unwanted chemicals from one university researcher to another — kind of a chemical swap meet).

However, most of the chemicals in this lab do not have a date indicating when they were received (or their “age”).  This means we cannot be certain that the more reactive chemicals have not changed over time — reacting with oxygen or moisture in the air, for example. These chemicals will be disposed of by the university’s Environmental Health and Safety.

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