May 1994

Household Hazardous Waste

Common household products-paint and paint thinner, nail polish and remover, batteries, motor oil, oven cleaners-are considered hazardous waste. Thrown away into a landfill, these substances may leach into the soil, polluting surface and groundwaters. Used oil from a single oil change, for example, can ruin 1 million gallons of fresh water-a year's supply for 50 people.

When poured down the drain or flushed down the toilet, hazardous wastes can seriously damage sewer systems and septic tanks, or pass through the treatment systems and pollute waterways.

The following household substitutes work just as well on most jobs as their toxic counterparts do, without contributing to hazardous waste problems. Use these and others alternatives to hazardous substances whenever possible.

Alternatives to Toxic Substances:

Products Alternatives
Drain cleaners

Pour boiling water down the drain, and use a plunger or plumber's snake.

Paints and solvents Use water-based (latex, acrylic) if possible.
Paint remover/stripper Heat guns may be used in well- ventilated areas; do not use with lead-based paints.
Spot remover Soak immediately in water, lemon juice, club soda, or corn meal and water.
Silver cleaner Soak silver in 1 quart warm water with 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, and a small piece of aluminum foil.
Window cleaner Fill a pump spray with 2 tbs. vinegar in 1 qt. water
Toilet bowl cleaner Use toilet brush and baking soda, mild detergent, or 1/2 cup bleach
Mothballs Pack clothes in cedar chest or surround with cedar chips.

The Chemical Hygiene Plan: An OSHA Mandate

Recent laboratory surveys by the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety show that Principal Investigators have not consistently transferred critical information about the OSHA Laboratory Standard to their laboratory assistants.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule on occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals in laboratories is performance-based, emphasizing safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals in a written Chemical Hygiene Plan.

Principal Investigators, as designated Chemical Hygiene Officers, are responsible for safety in their labs. It is critical that they:

  1. Inform lab personnel of, and require that they read, the CWRU Chemical Safety Manual and Chemical Hygiene Plan.
  2. Routinely instruct lab personnel in safety hazards unique to the experimental procedures performed in the laboratory.
  3. If they have not already done so, submit a chemical inventory and Chemical Hygiene Plan to the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety (DOES).

To help you comply with the standard, DOES can provide a copy of the CWRU Chemical Safety Manual. This manual may be adopted in its entirety for individual laboratories. However, individual investigators can continue to use alternate references, as long as they submit a written Chemical Hygiene Plan to DOES.

If you need a copy of the Chemical Safety Manual or the University Chemical Hygiene Plan Form, please call DOES at x2907. Your cooperation will provide a safer working environment for everyone.

Heavy Metals

The Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety (DOES) is currently surveying the laboratory use of heavy metals in order to ascertain safety concerns connected with their usage.

Attached to the newsletter is a questionnaire listing several biocumulative metals currently in use on campus. Biocumulative metals cannot be broken down by the body; once they enter it, through ingestion, absorption, or inhalation, they remain in the body, possibly having toxic effects over a period of time.

Through completion of the questionnaire by all users of these heavy metals, our department will be able to find out who is using these metals, where, and how often. With this information, we will be able to address any concerns which are related to use of these metals. Some fall under OSHA regulations; some do not but still may be cause for concern.

If you use any of the heavy metals listed on the questionnaire, please fill it out and return it to 216 Quail Building, or fax it (368-2236).


Questionnaire - As an aid to setting appropriate medical monitoring criteria for laboratory workers at CWRU, please check-off any boxes that apply. Fill in the frequency and quantity of material used, and write a short description of how the materials are used.

Real-life Radiation Accidents (and how you can prevent them)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) recently put out a memorandum concerning accidents in facilities similar to CWRU. In light of the NRC's issuance of this material, The Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety felt it would be appropriate to remind researchers of some of the safety precautions and rules relating to these accidents.

The causes of these accidents can be grouped around three main precepts:

  1. Inadequate training of the employee in the handling and use of radioactive material.
    • Ask your PI about any procedures of which you are unsure; know the location of the CWRU Radiation Safety Manual.
    • Attend yearly re-training sessions.
    • Two of the incidents listed in the NRC memo occurred partly because student workers were inadequately trained. Though these workers attend the training session offered by DOES, this cannot be considered the end of their training. They need practical lab experience in things like surveying, metering skills, and general lab safety protocol. Take the time to properly train and oversee any rotating students in your lab.
  2. Inadequate monitoring of persons and facilities where material was used.
    • Monitor yourself completely before leaving the premises of an experiment, especially your hands and shoes. Wear foot covers to decrease the chances of contamination getting on your shoes, or have a spare pair handy so that you can leave a potentially contaminated area safely. Contamination is easily spread by persons who believe they are not contaminated and so do not bother to survey themselves.
    • Meter your gloves whenever possible during an experiment, and leave them in the experimental area or discard in a proper container.
    • Perform routine surveys of the areas where radioactive materials are used.
    • In one of the cases, a worker did not survey himself because the meter was inoperable. If your meter is not working or is being calibrated, borrow one from another lab. Do not simply stop doing surveys!
  3. Inadequate management oversight of licensed activities.
    • Report any spill, no matter how small, to DOES. If the spill is large, our Radiation Safety technicians will help with clean-up.

The protocols put in place by the NRC and the university are designed to keep radiation workers and their communities safe. Following these safety measures will help decrease the potential hazards of working with radiation. Call DOES Radiation Safety (x2906) if ever you have questions concerning use.

Radioactive Liquid Waste: Issues Involved

Double Containment

Radioactive liquid waste should be double-contained at all times. This serves as a precaution against leakage and during transfer of the waste.

The outer container must be waterproof and must be able to contain all of the liquid waste should breach of the inner container occur. A Lucite shielding container or even a five-gallon bucket is suitable for this job. Double containment of liquid waste is a requirement of our NRC license and we will begin enforcing this.

For disposal, we recommend a plastic container with a wide mouth, holding about 4 liters of liquid. Be careful that the plastic container used is not soluble in organic materials. Those with high chemical resistance include unmodified polypropylene, polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) and polytrifluorochloroethylene.

All containers prepared for disposal must be properly sealed and labeled; also make sure the accompanying form is completely filled out before you call for a waste pick-up.

Disposable Containers

The Radiation Safety Office strongly encourages researchers to change to reusable liquid waste containers in order to reduce the amount of solid radioactive waste produced by the university.

Single-use waste containers, such as milk jugs or tissue culture flasks, must be disposed of after the liquid waste is poured out. This creates large amounts of unnecessary radioactive waste. Instead, use reusable containers (sold by Fisher Scientific and other chemical companies) to hold waste.

Order more than one reusable container; that way, when one is full and we collect it for disposal, you will still have another to use in the meantime. We return all reusables to the labs as soon as possible.

When ordering, pick sizes that are easy to handle and that are appropriate to the amount of waste your lab produces. If your lab produces a large amount of short term waste (waste with a half-life of 90 days or less) we can supply five-gallon containers. Otherwise, purchase one gallon (or less) containers to store waste for pick-up.

We encourage all labs to arrange for frequent pick-ups in order to reduce the potential hazard that exists when large amounts of waste are present in the lab. This also reduces the amount that must be picked up at one time.

Requisitions for Radiation Safety Office

In order to process orders to Purchasing more efficiently, the Radiation Safety Office asks that you fax or mail radiation requisitions to our office before 3:00 p.m., especially if they are rush orders.

If you need something by a certain date, try to get the order to us a few days beforehand, or at least early as possible the day before the product is needed. Orders are serviced in the order in which they arrive, and we fax them on to Purchasing as soon as possible.

The fax number for the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety is 368.2236; our phone number 368.2906 if you have any questions.

Seasonal Hazards

Almost everybody is glad that spring has finally arrived. Unfortunately, hazards sometimes pop up along with May's flowers. There will be a lot of outdoor activity ongoing to clean up and fix up the campus; this can create many temporary or seasonal hazards of which we should be aware and protect ourselves against if necessary.

The grounds crew will be using a wide variety of powered equipment: mowers, weed eaters, roto-tillers, choppers/shredders, etc. All of these devices can occasionally throw a projectile from their point of operation. These projectiles are capable of doing serious damage if they hit someone. Give a wide berth to this equipment when it is operating. The operators will have the necessary protective gear-safety glasses, safety shoes, hard hats, gloves. Chances are you won't have that same protection.

Many outdoor repair projects will be underway; repairing walkways and driveways, fixing steps and entrance ways. Often these projects require digging holes, temporarily removing portions of a walkway or steps and otherwise disrupting the normal flow of pedestrian traffic. Be on the alert for these situations and detour around them. These projects should have barricades and warnings in place; sometimes they do not, so be aware.

If you see any of these hazards and you feel that they are not properly barricaded and posted please call DOES at x2907. Let us know what and where the hazard is. We will check it out and institute safety measures if necessary. Now think summer.

University Fleet Operations

CWRU has a large number of motor vehicles, including passenger cars, trucks, vans, and special purpose vehicles. All drivers of university vehicles must be properly trained by the Department of Occupational and Environmental Safety (DOES).

These vehicles are used to help employees do their jobs: moving materials from building to building, transporting parts and manpower, and helping in the care of the grounds. Those who use or operate these vehicles must be familiar with the university policies and procedures controlling their use and maintenance, as well as any necessary procedures in the event of an accident.

If you are a new employee of the university in a department where driving one of these vehicles may be involved or have been transferred to such a department, you may need training. Often special purpose groups (such as Habitat for Humanity or Project Step-Up) need trained drivers as well.

DOES conducts motor vehicle safety training which covers these policies and procedures as well as general safety practices. If you operate a university vehicle and have not been to a Motor Vehicle Safety session, call DOES at 368- 2907 to arrange registration.