Biosafety Cabinet Survey: Working Safely, Preventing Contamination

EH&S recently completed its semi-annual survey of biological safety cabinets (tissue culture hoods).  During such visits we focus on these related safety and contamination control items.

  • Certification Date - Laboratories must have their cabinets certified annually. This procedure tests the integrity of a cabinet’s HEPA filters and determines if the airflow rate and directionality are within an established ‘acceptable’ range.  Some researchers may be inclined to delay or forego certification  because they “do not use anything infectious.”  Even when this is the case, it is critical to remember that biosafety cabinets not only prevent personal exposure (to infectious  materials) but  they also, when used properly, reduce the chances of contamination of critical,

      perhaps unique, specimens.

  • Vacuum Line Filters and Disinfectant Traps - Aspiration of cell culture flasks creates aerosols that can be drawn into vacuum systems posing a hazard to maintenance staff; installation of an in-line filter, C, reduces the hazard.  The drawing at right illustrates the appropriate flask and filter set up. Collection flasks should be placed inside the cabinet (yes, this is feasible if storage of unnecessary material in the cabinet is eliminated and the workspace is efficiently set  up).  Placing a collection flask on the floor results in drawing infectious material outside the confines of the cabinet and creates the possibility of breakage and contamination  should someone knock it over.
For more on the safe and effective use of biological safety cabinets, see: bio

Food Irradiation: Is It Safe?

Food is irradiated to destroy insects, fungi or bacteria that cause spoilage or spread disease. (Remember though that irradiated food should not be a substitute for good food preparation hygiene.)  The process has been used for many years on food for the armed forces, in some hospitals, and on all imported dried spices. 
While exposing food to high radiation will not make it radioactive, some scientists believe that radiation can lower the nutritional value or produce harmful free radicals in the food. 
Further research must be conducted in this field to assure the safety of irradiated food (changing the name would be beneficial). Irradiated food is sold in many supermarkets around the country and can be recognized by the logo in the attached photograph. 

Recognition of Outstanding Achievement

Regular readers of our Newsletter know that there is no lack of rules, regulations, policies to follow. However, none of these would be effective without the active support of non-EH&S members of the Columbia   community. One such person is Cathy Troutman of the Lamont-Doherty (LDEO) Safety and Security Office.  She was recently awarded the Lamont Service Award for her dedication and hard work in supporting LDEO’s safety program. This award is given each year to a member of the administrative or support staff who has demonstrated:

  • Extraordinary effort;
  • Exceptional work quality;
  • Capacity to anticipate and solve issues before they are problems;
  • Willingness to go "above and beyond" the call of duty, often without being asked; and
  • High degree of reliability and trust by supervisors, research staff, peers, and customers.

During her 9 years of service, Cathy has increasingly taken on additional responsibilities in a number of critical areas, continuously displaying a high standard of performance. Congratulations Cathy!

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