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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: 

  • 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 can help nail down the remaining options. This is especially important for Mercury, PCF, or dioxin compounds because they must be managed separately from other hazardous waste.
  • For trade products, contact the manufacturer or search online to obtain a safety data sheet (SDS). EHS personnel can assist 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. A Request for Chemical Removal form should be submitted, including as much information as possible about the unknown chemical. 


Preventing 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 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 requests for removals to reduce the amount of chemicals in the laboratory
  • Employees should dispose of all their waste before leaving or graduating from OSU. Each laboratory or department should have a system to ensure that all faculty, staff, and students properly dispose of hazardous waste, including unwanted research samples before departing the university. 



Chemical and Material Removal Request

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