ORGLIST: Normal odor level in an organic lab

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From: Bozell, Joe (joe_bozell$##$nrel.gov)
Date: Fri Feb 02 2001 - 18:17:44 EST


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
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