Environmental Health and Safety


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Laboratories are one of the main generators of waste at universities around the world. Laboratories use about four times more energy than offices of the same size; thus, laboratories have an enormous impact on a university's energy bill. Yet unfortunately, few resources have been available for laboratories to decrease their environmental footprint. Few options for Energy Star-rated laboratory equipment and few effective ways of recycling or reusing laboratory chemicals and supplies are available in the current market. Furthermore, research spaces are rarely designed in a way that facilitates the conservation of energy and water.

Green Chemistry

“Green Chemistry is the utilization of a set of principles that reduces or eliminates the use or generation of hazardous substances in the design, manufacture, and application of chemical products.”
Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice by Paul Anastas and John Warner

Green Chemistry is framed by 12 principles that guide chemists in the design of materials and processes. 

The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry

  1. Prevention: It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it has been created.
  2. Atom Economy: Synthetic methods should be designed to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
  3. Less Hazardous Chemical Syntheses: Wherever practicable, synthetic methods should be designed to use and generate substances that possess little or no toxicity to human health and the environment.
  4. Designing Safer Chemicals: Chemical products should be designed to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity. 
  5. Safer Solvents and Auxiliaries: The use of auxiliary substances (e.g., solvents, separation agents, etc.) should be made unnecessary wherever possible and innocuous when used.
  6. Design for Energy Efficiency: Energy requirements of chemical processes should be recognized for their environmental and economic impacts and should be minimized. If possible, synthetic methods should be conducted at ambient temperature and pressure. 
  7. Use of Renewable Feedstocks: A raw material or feedstock should be renewable rather than depleting whenever technically and economically practicable.
  8. Reduce Derivatives: Unnecessary derivatization (use of blocking groups, protection/ deprotection, temporary modification of physical/chemical processes) should be minimized or avoided if possible because such steps require additional reagents and can generate waste.
  9. Catalysis: Catalytic reagents (as selective as possible) are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
  10. Design for Degradation: Chemical products should be designed so that at the end of their function they break down into innocuous degradation products and do not persist in the environment. 
  11. Real-time analysis for Pollution Prevention: Analytical methodologies need to be further developed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
  12. Inherently Safer Chemistry for Accident Prevention: Substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process should be chosen to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires.

Chemical Fume Hoods

A single chemical fume hood (CFH) operating 24 hours per day uses about as much energy as three single-family homes.

The two types of chemical fume hoods at Wright State are variable air volume (VAV) and constant air volume (CAV).

A "variable air volume" or VAV fume hood will maintain the speed (foot per minute) of the air into the fume hood regardless of sash height, but its air volume (cfm) will vary. The more open the sash, the more volume of air is needed. Since most of the air is conditioned, it must also be heated or cooled. Some studies have shown that up to 60% energy savings are possible. A true VAV system ties the fume hood exhaust with the room's air supply and exhaust.

A "constant air volume" or CAV does not adjust its air volume. The energy use and air volume (cfm) remain constant. The hood should be set up to have 80-120 fpm at 18" sash height. A lowered sash is the safest position for fume hood operations. A shut sash protects the laboratory worker from mishaps within the hood and possible hood failures.

Safety Tips

Chemical fume hoods are an engineering control to help minimize exposure to hazardous materials. It is important to understand their function, limitations, and use.

Please follow the following safety tips for your CFH:

Shut the Sash

  1. If you have a spill in a fume hood;
  2. If room ventilation goes down;
  3. If you leave your fume hood unattended;
  4. If an alarm sounds on the fume hood;
  5. If the airflow is flowing into the lab instead of into the fume hood.

Best CHEMICAL Fume Hood Practices

  1. Use a chemical fume hood for all chemical experiments if possible.
  2. Do not use the fume hood for chemical storage.
  3. Do not lean into the fume hood.
  4. When in use, keep the sash opening to a maximum of 18".
  5. Maintain 80-120 fpm face velocity during operation.
  6. Always work in the hood with the sash opened only as much as possible.

Orphan Chemicals

The Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) routinely provides a list of chemicals, that are available to all researchers, representing chemicals that are no longer wanted by various labs throughout the university. These "orphaned" chemicals are available free of charge, on a "first-come, first-serve" basis.

This service is available to Wright State University researchers only.  

Green Labs

Why Become a Green Lab?

Did you know that laboratory buildings use approximately 3-5 times as much energy per square foot as an office or classroom? This is true for other resources, including water, solid waste, chemicals, and electronics.

Wright State Green Labs is a program to make our labs at Wright State University our campus environment safe and healthy.

The Green Labs program helps our environment at Wright State and the world. When the waste of recyclable materials in the labs is decreased, the labor of workers in disposal and cost of disposal at Wright State will be decreased. On the large scale, landfill wastes, carbon dioxide, and other gases produced by burning wastes are reduced. Ultimately, we protect the life and health of ours and other living creatures from pollution and climate change resulting from the emission of these gases. Further, we promote the "green image" of Wright State.

The recyclable materials in our program include:

  • Kimberly-Clark Professional nitrile gloves;
  • Fisher Scientific pipette tips boxes and inserts;
  • Corning, Falcon, and Axygen product packaging (pipet tip racks, lids, plastic bags, shrink wrap, centrifuge tube, plastic bags, Styrofoam racks, serological pipet plastic wrappers, and plastic bags for cell culture dishes, plates, and flasks); and
  • used batteries.

We would like to encourage all the labs at Wright State that use these recyclable materials to participate in Wright State Green Labs. Please click on the button to start the first step to becoming a Green Lab.

Green lab practices ranging from freezer management to water conservation, pipette tip boxes and foam cooler recycling, chemical volume reduction, and fume hood sash closures can save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. Help your equipment last longer and create a safer lab environment. We hope you will find the program to be fun and fulfilling.

Contact us for additional information

Complete the EHS Service Request Form.