Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Actual Conversation:Health and Safety Version

PLS: "Hey, I'm just calling to find out what you guys suggest doing with large plastic tubes that have had phenol and chloroform in them."

Health and Safety Officer: "Hmmmm, can you hold on for a second?"

PLS: "Sure." *Mentally humming the theme to Final Jeopardy while listening to the muffled conversation behind the hand over the receiver at the other end of the line.*

HaSO: "Just put them in a clear plastic bag, autoclave them and throw them out."

PLS: "Wait, they're volatile chemicals. You want me to heat them under high pressure? How will that make them less hazardous?" *Imagining finding an unconscious undergrad in front of an open autoclave with organic fumes everywhere.*

HaSO: "Well, it should make the tubes unrecognizable."

PLS: "So you want to melt the tubes and plastic together with the volatile chemicals and then throw them in the garbage."

HaSO: "As long as the tubes are destroyed it should be fine."

PLS: "...Um, for who?"

HaSO: "Was that your only question?"

PLS: "Yes." *Thinking: Until I have to call and ask about the treatment for hot phenol vapor inhalation, yes.*

So, uh, yeah. That's not what we did with those tubes. At least now I know that the office is interested in the safety of the university.


  1. I admit to using fume hoods to rid tubes of noxious volatile chemicals prior to disposal. Overnight should do it.

  2. Wow, that's kind of terrifying! Our place is super-ultra-mega strict about chemical and biohazard safety, and actually thinks about what the stuff IS before deciding what to do with it...

  3. Usually they are pretty good here, which is why this made even less sense. In their defense, the office is WOEFULLY underfunded, which makes it more important that the labs police themselves to a certain degree.

  4. If you make it unrecognizable as a hazardous agent, then it can dumped in the trash??? Unbelievable!

    Come to think of it, we put all our solid phenol/chloroform contaminated waste in a bucket and our safety officers come to pick it up from our lab. Maybe this is what they're doing with it!

  5. Actual conversation in the lab today, while TechnoGrad was doing mouse dissections and I was doing the quantitative culture in the hood:

    TG: "Behold! The last mouse!"
    Me: "Not for me, bitch!"

    Speaking without thinking happens far too easily when I'm distracted by blazing through serial dilutions.

  6. PLS: Pour it in a container (we use an old dark bottle) in the fume hood and keep it there until a real safety officer knows how to dispose of it. I think it involves a filter and a safe place.... but no, I would never autoclave it. Never.

    Not that I am chicken about vapors and stuff but really?!!? autoclave hazadourz waste in a regular lab... sure.... not.

  7. Chall, not to worry. We deal with a lot of phenol and have a waste set up in the lab for the liquid. I was more concerned about the large tubes we recently had to use for a larger-than-normal proceedure. The liquid was gone, but the tubes were what I needed to deal with. I did not want to throw them out and our regular disposal mechanism is too small to deal with the amount of plastic we generated, so I was looking to health and safety for a suggestion.

    I would also never autoclave something like that, despite being instructed to do so.