Issue Date: August 21, 2006
Academic lab waste
The article on waste in academiclaboratories omits the role that the American Chemical Society played in changing the hazardous waste rules for academic labs (C&EN, May 29, page 6). In 1980, ACS established the Task Force on RCRA (Resource Conservation & Recovery Act). It is now called the Task Force on Laboratory Environmental Health & Safety in recognition that the new hazardous waste regulations oriented to industrial operations would have an impact on laboratories and that chemists and other laboratory workers needed guidance on how to operate within these parameters
Over the years, the task force has been active in presenting programs to our membership as well as developing books and brochures ("Less Is Better" and "RCRA and Laboratories" are probably the best known of these). The task force also worked closely with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration to promote the unique status of laboratory chemistry and its professionals.
The reality that laboratories contribute only a minuscule quantity to the hazardous waste stream limited the resources that regulatory agencies were able to contribute to addressing these issues and thus to the 25 years that it has taken to make these substantial changes. I am disappointed that these new rules apply only to the academic sector rather than the larger laboratory community. But it is a welcome first step.
South Pasadena, Calif.
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