Corrosive Materials; Flammable Materials; Oxidizers; Moisture Reactive; Compressed Gases; Toxic and Poisonous Substances

Standard Operating Procedure No. 6

Toxic and Poisonous Substances

Scope:    All chemical substances as categorized by scientific literature.  Consult chemical specific listings.

Note:  Chemicals not specifically listed as toxic or poisonous may still produce toxic and poisonous effects in over-exposed individuals.  Handle all chemicals with care using safe and prudent laboratory practices.

Hazards:   Toxic and poisonous substances exist in liquid, gas, dust, mist, fume, fog, and solid form.  Although each may have its own specific physical hazard (flammable, corrosive, high pressure), these substances are capable of causing adverse health effects upon short-term exposure or over-exposure.  Many are acutely lethal if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through the skin.  Effects may not be immediately noticeable as they can be masked by common ailments such as stomach upset, nausea, or weakness.  Dependence on observed symptoms is very subjective.  Subsequently, all reported ailments in the laboratory should be taken seriously with consideration given to the substance being used prior to the onset of symptoms.

Effects exhibited are wide ranging and all can culminate in death.  Common routes of entry into the body include, inhalation (gases), ingestion/contact (liquids and solids).  Many liquids and solids are easily absorbed into the human body through intact skin upon contact.  Flying objects contaminated with toxic substances, or open wounds can contribute to skin exposure.  Ingestion can occur through accidental exposure, although it is frequently caused by poor hygiene practices in the laboratory such as failure to wash hands after handling such substances.  Substances with noticeable odors may have “odor thresholds” above the safe exposure limit, resulting in over-exposure without warning.

Storage: Chemicals should be stored according to the current laboratory storage pattern in use with care exercised to keep incompatible substances segregated.  Consult the primary hazard standard operating procedure for storage requirements (e.g. flammables, compressed gases, etc.).  Ensure restricted access to chemical storage areas.  Keep containers tightly sealed and ensure all are appropriately labeled.

PPE: Safety Goggles; Disposable Gloves; Lab-coats

Usage:   Instructors must ensure constant supervision of students using these substances.  Students must not be allowed to work with these substances alone.

Prohibition of eating, drinking, chewing gum, application of cosmetics, and handling contact lenses while in the laboratory must be strictly enforced. 

Items intended for human consumption must not be stored near these substances.  Always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet before use to familiarize yourself with the hazards involved.  Handle substances according to their primary hazard (e.g. flammable, compressed gases, etc.) when available.

Always wear disposable gloves when handling or transferring these materials, even if for a short time.  Lab coats should be worn at all times.  Ensure gloves are not reused and all personal protective equipment is removed prior to leaving the laboratory work area.  Avoid touching any item unnecessarily with contaminated gloves, including documents, pens, doorknobs, telephones, etc.  Any such items should be decontaminated after use.  Do not use these substances outside of specifically designated laboratory areas.  These substances should not be handled by individuals with open cuts, wounds, or sores. 

Laboratory fume hoods should be used when substances present an inhalation hazard, either by themselves or when they have the potential to generate toxic gases, such as sodium or potassium cyanide.  Always use mechanical pipettes when transferring liquids.

Laboratory work areas and experimentation must be scrupulously cleaned after each use with a suitable detergent with all cleaning materials properly disposed of after use.  Rubber gloves must be used for cleaning.  Always wash hands with detergent solution after handling these substances and before leaving the laboratory.

Waste: Liquids, Solids, Gases:  Contact Maine Department of Environmental Protection for details.  Wastes may be hazardous in nature requiring disposal by a DEP-licensed contractor.