Feds mandate new biohazard inventory in U research labs

Courtney Lewis

The University is conducting an inventory of the toxins it holds on campus, following a mandate by the federal government looking to promote safe handling of toxins at universities nationwide.

The mandate will strengthen the University’s current practice of categorizing toxins, said Jim Lauer, assistant director and biosafety officer with the department of environmental health and safety.

The department will inventory the University’s research labs by Sept. 14, when it will report its findings to the Office of Regulatory Affairs.

Lab members will dispose of old materials and unlabeled containers to prepare for the inventories, a procedure Lauer said will provide valuable training for employees.

“We have people who deal with the HIV virus,” Lauer said. “Training on how to handle these viruses is part of our policy to keep our employees safe.”

Disposable materials will be placed in plastic bags and heated for an hour at 121 degrees before being thrown out as trash.

Biohazardous materials can also be placed in red bags for special disposal.

Lauer said the University uses many biohazardous materials in its research projects.

The department will inspect viruses such as chlamydia, West Nile and influenza. Biological toxins will also be inspected.

Procedures for handling toxins have become more rigid, Lauer said.

“Ten years ago, you could send away for cultures of any nature,” he said.

Now, because some diseases have become more communicable and harder to treat over time, Lauer said, it’s more important to handle them safely.

Courtney Lewis welcomes comments at [email protected]