Chemical Safety

As a New Person, you looked over that page in the Safety Handbook that listed all the hazards in the lab. Maybe that was 5 minutes ago. So you'll remember that the big chemical hazard to worry about here is formalin, which is an aqueous solution of formaldehyde. It kills bacteria and viruses, and cross-links DNA, which is why it's great as an embalming agent. This is also why it's a carcinogen and toxic to people.

Most of what follows should be learned hands-on from someone who's training you, but you'll know this bare-bones account is here in case you need a refresher at 2AM sometime.

Labels that all mean the same molecule, in various forms:

Formaldehyde (solid); formalin (aqueous solution, often with methanol); paraformaldehyde (solid polymer); fix or fixative (general)

General Rules:

1. Don't touch anything labeled with any of these labels with your bare hands, ever. A small piece of RED TAPE designates an item as "fix".

2. Don't mix up Fix tools with non-fix tools. Once a tool has touched fixative, it shouldn't be used for anything else. So don't keep grabbing new spatulas, labeling them fix, and then wondering why you can't find a clean one to weigh out your NaCl. Alternatively, using a fix spatula to weigh out NaCl is not an acceptable solution.

3. To make a new waste container, stick a waste label on an empty container and label it with all the bad things that are going into it. DON'T DATE IT YET. For the check boxes: formaldehyde is considered toxic. If you're reusing a bottle that originally held something else, obliterate the old label with Sharpie.

4. You should remember this from Safety training: Keep liquid and solid waste separate.

5. When a waste container is more than 3/4 full, put the date on the tag. Call the hazardous waste pickup at 6-2561 and leave a detailed message that includes a detailed description of the location, the general type and volume of waste, and if we need more tags or containers. For example: "Hi, I'm calling to schedule a pickup for a 5-gallon tank of liquid waste. The tank is under the sink in Bassine 330A, and we'll need a replacement tank and extra labels. Thanks!"

6. Plan ahead for your waste needs. Pickups are Mondays and Thursdays. If Monday is a holiday and you've got 6 perfusions planned, call ahead the previous Wednesday morning and get extra tanks delivered on Thursday. Use common sense - everyone, including the waste guy, has a funky schedule over breaks.

Extra info:

Brandeis Waste site here.

formaldehyde (the Wiki article is pretty interesting, actually - give it a look)