June 2, 2014



Spring cleaning laboratory chemicals

By Steve Galitzer

There is no question that we store lots of chemicals in our laboratories. However, it is also very common to find chemicals that have been in storage for 20, 30 or even 50 years because some chemicals are inherited from a previous principal investigator. In addition, it is fairly common to find several one half-kilogram bottles of the same reagent. This suggests that those old chemicals are not used very often, if at all.

Recent chemical accidents in the U.S. has prompted the government to find ways to reduce safety and security risks in the production and storage of dangerous chemicals. What this means to us as a university is that we must get our house in order. We must improve how we store chemicals and we must improve security of our chemicals.

K-State's insurance carrier recently inspected campus property and found an excess of chemicals being stored in laboratories. The age of some of those chemicals was apparent. The Environmental Protection Agency has inspected universities and revealed the same issue of excessive old chemicals in storage. The the agency considers this "inherently waste like" and can penalize a university.

Each and every principal investigator must seriously look at the chemicals stored in their laboratories. Chemical age and use must be considered. Old chemicals must be properly discarded by the environmental health and safety department. Disposal is provided by the department at no cost to research or academic departments. In addition, chemicals should be purchased only in quantities that will be used within a year.

As research initiatives come to completion, the excess chemicals should be evaluated and decisions made for disposal. Finally, when faculty leave the university, environmental health and safety must be notified so chemicals are safely removed from the laboratory. Contact environmental health and safety to request a pick up of excess chemicals.

Use the environmental health and safety assistant website. The icon for the inventory system is at the bottom of the page. For assistance contact Kelly Greene at environmental health and safety 785-532-5856 or safety@ksu.edu.