Here’s another item to add to your hazardous waste collection - autoclave tape. That’s right! Autoclave tape is made with a series of angled stripes (/ / / / /) that appear light beige under normal conditions and darken in the autoclave when exposed to sufficiently high heat and pressure. It is commonly used in many hospitals, clinics, and laboratories to indicate that a package of materials, instruments, flasks, glassware etc. has been sterilized.
Some of the most common brands of lead containing autoclave tape (prior to November 2008) are Propper “Canada”, Fisherbrand, 3M Comply, and Shamrock. As an alternative Fisher and VWR now carry “Lead Free” autoclave tape. The best way to determine if your autoclave tape contains lead is always the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). For future purchases, see the names of some lead-free brands below.
Sodium Hydride (NaH) is one of many pyrophoric reagents used in laboratory research. NaH is extremely reactive with water, to the point that the dry powder will often react with moisture in air. Recently a lab worker was weighing a small amount of the dry powder in ambient air when it began to smolder. The reagent was quickly moved to the hood, where it was placed in an inert (nitrogen gas) environment and covered with sand. The lab worker correctly stopped a colleague from using a CO2 extinguisher, which might have dispersed the material and exacerbated the problem. Quick thinking on the part of the lab staff, as well as their use of available resources from EH&S and experienced faculty, prevented a serious incident from occurring with this pyrophoric material.
Hydrofluoric (HF) acid is one of the most hazardous chemicals used in Columbia laboratories. It reacts corrosively with a wide variety of materials, making it both useful and dangerous. Most metals, natural rubber, rock, concrete, glass, fiberglass, ceramics and glazes are dissolved by HF; however it does not react with metallic lead and platinum, polyethylene, polypropylene, Teflon, plexiglass (acrylic), or wax.
HF users and first responders are at the greatest risk of exposure during incidents involving a release. Gaseous hydrogen fluoride and hydrofluoric acid have nearly the same toxicological properties and can be considered interchangeable. HF burns are unlike other acid burns, where injury is caused predominately by dissociated H+ ions. HF readily penetrates skin, corroding soft tissue and bone. Inhaled HF vapor/gas can cause delayed pulmonary edema. Systemic HF poisoning removes Ca2+ from soft tissues and bones (hypocalcemia). Ca2+ regulation is critical for normal cell function, neural transmission, bone integrity, blood coagulation and intracellular signaling. Sudden death following acute exposure to large quantities of HF is not uncommon. Exposure to dilute solutions may not cause any pain and therefore may go undetected for hours.
A delay in first aid/treatment of HF exposure may result in painful, slow-to-heal burns and/or systemic poisoning. Immediate first aid should include removal by flooding exposed areas with copious amounts of water, followed by an application of calcium gluconate first aid gel, which must be on hand wherever HF is used.
HF must be used only in a certified chemical fume hood; procedures involving even small quantities of dilute solutions must not be performed on an open lab bench. Use the buddy system-never use HF when alone in the lab. Prevent contamination by using plastic trays or bench paper on work surfaces before starting HF procedures. Ensure calcium gluconate first aid gel is on hand and check the expiration date.
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