RE: ORGLIST: Normal odor level in an organic lab

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From: Bozell, Joe (joe_bozell$##$nrel.gov)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 09:44:36 EST


An important question, and we are indeed working with some organosulfur
compounds. I do not believe that those are the source of our safety rep's
complaints, however. I'm pretty sensitive to them, and have gone to great
lenghts to keep them neutralized and in the hood. They are not noticeable
under most circumstances, even when visitors with "fresh" noses walk into
the lab.

Our laboratory contains two unvented chemical cabinets that set off the
electronic sniffer at the ppm level (no sulfur compounds are stored in
there). One is a flammables cabinet, and contains a number of volatile
organic solvents: ether, hexane, ethyl acetate, methanol, tetrahydrofuran,
etc., along with other hydrocarbons. The cabinet is closed most of the time
but could vent vapor into the room when the door is opened. We also have a
refrigerator that releases a distinct odor when opened, but which also
dissipates quickly. Interestingly, the sniffer did not detect anything
coming from the refrigerator. We also generate solvent odors (mostly ether,
hexane, acetone) when emptying the rotovap traps into the waste disposal
containers. Again, this disappears quickly. The lab also is used to store
pyrolysis oils from wood, which have a very distinctive smoky, barbeque
odor. However, they are stored in tightly sealed containers below -20 deg
C, and are not volatile.

My impression is that the safety rep thinks the lab smells "bad" or "funny",
but cannot identify the odor. I agree with you that the simple act of
moving chemicals from one place to another could be a source of odor.

Again, thanks for any insight.

Joe Bozell
Principal Scientist
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Golden, CO
USA


> ----------
> From: John S. Roberts
> Sent: Sunday, February 4, 2001 3:54 PM
> To: Multiple recipients of list orglist
> Subject: Re: ORGLIST: Normal odor level in an organic lab
>
> Joe:
>
> What you didn't tell us was what kinds of chemicals you are working with.
> I've spent most of my life working with organic sulfur compounds, and ppm
> levels would be extremely noticeable. We had great hoods, charcoal
> filters
> on the hoods, but just tracking bottles back and forth to the hoods from
> outside storage was enough to make the lab stinky on occasion.
>
> So, let us know, and we may be able to give you some hints.
>
> John Roberts
> JohnSRoberts$##$Worldnet.att.net
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Bozell, Joe" <joe_bozell$##$nrel.gov>
> To: "Multiple recipients of list orglist" <orglist$##$dq.fct.unl.pt>
> Sent: Friday, February 02, 2001 5:17 PM
> Subject: ORGLIST: Normal odor level in an organic lab
>
>
> > Dear colleagues,
> >
> > This is not precisely a chemical question, but is related, and perhaps a
> > situation you've had to deal with also. Any help would be greatly
> > appreciated.
> >
> > I am currently in discussions with our local safety representative
> regarding
> > "fugitive odors" in our laboratory. He equates it with chemical
> > contamination, while I equate it with the normal odors associated with
> > synthetic organic research. The ventilation in our lab, both with
> regard
> to
> > air exchanges/hour (12) and flow at the hoods (>100 fpm at 18" sash
> height)
> > has been checked and exceeds specs for our building. Moreover, he has
> > checked our laboratory with an electronic "sniffer" and has found less
> than
> > ppm levels of the chemicals to which the probe was sensitive. Almost all
> > chemical manipulations in our lab are done in the hood. However,
> organic
> > chemistry is not one of the major efforts at our facility. More
> engineering
> > is carried out, thus, our work has odors different from the engineering
> > research that goes on.
> >
> > We are currently being encouraged to add even more, expensive,
> mechanical
> > controls to try and eliminate the odors. However, I would like to know
> what
> > the safety literature might say about this problem. Can anyone point me
> to
> > some hard data about what is acceptable and "normal" for an organic
> > laboratory? Is any odor harmful? If the specific chemical or chemicals
> > cannot be identified, should one assume there is a problem and a danger?
> > What is a reasonable and prudent response that will make sure that the
> > occupants of the lab are not being exposed unnecessarily to harmful
> > materials?
> >
> > thanks for any help,
> >
> > Joe Bozell
> > Principal Scientist
> > National Renewable Energy Laboratory
> > Golden, CO
> > USA
> > __________________
> >
> > ORGLIST - Organic Chemistry Mailing List
> > Website / Archive / FAQ: http://www.orglist.net/
> > List coordinator: Joao Aires de Sousa (jas$##$mail.fct.unl.pt)
> >
> >
>
> __________________
>
> ORGLIST - Organic Chemistry Mailing List
> Website / Archive / FAQ: http://www.orglist.net/
> List coordinator: Joao Aires de Sousa (jas$##$mail.fct.unl.pt)
>
__________________

ORGLIST - Organic Chemistry Mailing List
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List coordinator: Joao Aires de Sousa (jas$##$mail.fct.unl.pt)




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