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Safety Concerns for
Research Chemicals

Safety Handling of Research Chemicals

Chemicals as elements, compounds, mixtures, solutions and emulsions are very widely used and transported in the modern industrial society. Of necessity, they are also used in schools, universities and other training facilities to educate pupils in their safe use and handling and also are commonly used in domestic situations for cleaning, gardening and DIY. However, there are chemicals that should not mix or get in contact with others, as they can produce byproducts that may be toxic, carcinogenic, explosive etc, or can be dangerous themselves. To avoid disasters and mishaps, maintaining safety is considered paramount, especially by chemists. Chemical safety includes all those policies, procedures and practices designed to minimise the risk of exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals. This includes the risks of exposure to persons handling the chemicals, to the surrounding environment, and to the communities and ecosystems within that environment. The hazardous nature of many chemicals may be increased when mixed with other chemicals, heated or handled inappropriately. In a chemically safe environment, users are able to take appropriate actions in case of accidents although many incidents of exposure to chemical hazards occur outside of a controlled environments such as manufacturing plants or laboratories. It is estimated that 1.6 million human deaths occur each year from contact with hazardous chemicals. and that in 2016, 45 million disability-adjusted life-years were lost, a significant increase from 2012.
Medical Virology Research Scientist Works in a Hazmat Suit with Mask, She Uses Micropipette. She Works in a Sterile High Tech Laboratory, Research Facility.

Risks and hazards

Chemicals in use in industry and research have a range of properties which cause them to be hazardous to life. These include explosiveness, flammability, toxicity, carcinogenicity and teratogenicity. They may also emit radiation and they may exist at high or low temperatures generating a risk or burning or freezing. Substances such as strong alkalis and strong acids can cause chemical burning. Any one chemical or mixture may exhibit several of these properties.
Shot of healthcare workers wearing hazmat suits and sanitising a room during an outbreak

Protocols and standards

A chemically safe environment includes agreed standards and terminology, rules about handling use and transportation, protocols for managing reagents and products, and internationally accepted and standardised warning and information signage. From this are derived, standards related to personal protective equipment (PPE), containment and clean-up procedures, reporting of accidents and incidents and the collection and reporting on data about incidents where hazardous chemicals have cause risk to life, health or the environment.

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