Formalin spills

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From:"Anatech Ltd." <>
Date:Thu, 25 Mar 1999 11:13:31 -0400
Content-Type:text/plain; charset="us-ascii"

On March 24, Jennifer Saunders requested information regarding the cleanup
of formalin spills of various sizes.

Your first step is to determine what you consider a small vs. a large
spill.  In doing so, you must take into account your circumstances:  How
large is your laboratory?  Is it independently located, or is it part of a
hospital?  What resources do you have in terms of manpower, finances, time,
and chemical expertise?  How close is the nearest community Hazmat Response
Team (usually part of the local Fire Dept.)?

As one having had experience with formalin spills (either directly or
indirectly), I strongly suggest that you keep the "small" spill definition
at less than one gallon.  Frankly, I think for a biomedical laboratory a
one quart limit is more realistic.  I have spoken with hospital labs which
have spilled this amount; they have had to evacuate not only the lab, but
also neighboring rooms on the same floor, because they were not prepared.
A quart or less of formalin can be easily be treated with a formalin
detoxifying agent such as Formalex (S&S Company of Georgia, 800-332-2594).
Spill control procedures are included with the product.

Unless your facility is ready for a major investment in time, training, and
responsibility, the best option for larger spills is to evacuate the area
and call the local Hazmat Response Team.  If your safety officer wants to
handle large spills with in-house personnel, specific training of a Hazmat
Team is required, as designated by OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and
Emergency Response Standard (29CFR1910.120).

Even for small spills, keep in mind that there are OSHA regulations with
which you must comply.  The Laboratory Standard (Occupational Exposure to
Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, 29CFR1910.1450) requires a spill
control plan, and for employees to be trained in spill procedures.  For
non-laboratories (the rest of the hospital, for instance) these same
requirements are contained in the Hazard Communication Standard
(29CFR1910.1200).  For both laboratory and nonlaboratory facilities, the
OSHA standards on Personal Protective Equipment (29CFR1910.132 -138, which
includes eye, hand, and respiratory protection) and Formaldehyde
(29CFR1910.1048) must also be taken into account.

Whether large spills or small, preparedness is the key.  Plans must
devised, written, communicated to the employees, and practiced.

Janet Dapson

Janet C. Dapson
1020 Harts Lake Road
Battle Creek, MI  49015
800-262-8324 or 616-964-6450
Fax 616-964-8084

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