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Oklahoma State University

Identifying Unknown Chemicals

Every effort should be made by laboratory personnel to identify unknown chemicals. Here are a few steps that can be taken to help this effort:

  • Ask other laboratory personnel if they are responsible for, or can help identify the unknown chemical.
  • The type of research conducted in the laboratory can be useful information for making this determination. Eliminating certain chemicals as a possibility helps narrow the problem as well. This is especially important for Mercury, PCB, or dioxin compounds because they must be managed separately from other hazardous waste.
  • For trade products, contact the manufacturer or search online to obtain an SDS. EHS staff can assist you in finding an SDS.

Removing Unknown Chemicals from the Work Area

If it is not possible to identify the material, a Hazardous Chemical Surplus tag should be placed on the container as described above. A Request for Chemical Removal form should be submitted which describes all of the available information (e.g., 4-liter container of clear liquid). Call EHS at (405) 744-7241 if you have a question about an unknown.

Preventing Unknown Chemicals

Here are a few tips that will help prevent the generation of unknown chemicals:

  • Label all chemical containers, including beakers, flasks, vials, and test tubes.

  • Immediately replace labels that have fallen off or that are deteriorated.

  • Label containers using chemical names. Do not use abbreviations, structure, or formulae.

  • Archived research samples are often stored in boxes containing hundreds of small vials. Label the outside of the box with the chemical constituents paying special attention to regulated materials such as radioactive, organic solvents, heavy metals and other toxics. If the samples are nonhazardous, label them as such.

  • Submit frequent Request for Chemical Removal forms to reduce the amount of chemicals in your laboratory.

  • Employees should dispose of all of their waste before leaving/graduating from OSU. The lab and/or department should come up with a system to ensure that all faculty, staff, and students properly dispose of hazardous waste, including unwanted research samples, before employees leave.