Volume 85 Issue 21 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 21, 2007

Chemical Security

Department of Homeland Security rule captures academic labs
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Homeland Security
A research laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Credit: Weill Cornell Medical College
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A research laboratory at Weill Cornell Medical College.
Credit: Weill Cornell Medical College

NEW CHEMICAL SECURITY regulations issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are sending colleges and universities into a tailspin. The rules will require institutions storing or using "chemicals of interest" that exceed specified amounts to inventory them and complete an online form. DHS will then determine whether the institutions are subject to further security requirements (C&EN, April 9, page 13).

Academic institutions across the country claim they will have to spend countless hours and scarce resources on documenting very small amounts of chemicals in many different labs that are scattered across sometimes sprawling campuses. Many of the chemicals, they say, are in minute quantities and often in dilute aqueous solutions and thus pose minimal security risks.

"The rule was intended for chemical facilities, not laboratories that maintain small quantities of chemicals at levels that can't cause catastrophic events," says Erik A. Talley, Weill Cornell Medical College's health and safety head.

Academia's collective angst was triggered by DHS's call for comments on a list of chemicals covered by the regulations. DHS issued this list as Appendix A on April 9.

Once the appendix was released, academics realized they will have to report the amount and location of listed chemicals in excess of a so-called screening threshold quantity. For 104 chemicals on the list, the threshold is "any amount."

The Campus Safety, Health & Environmental Management Association notes that hazardous chemicals on campus already "are closely regulated" by EPA, OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and by many other state and federal standards. "As a result, colleges and universities pose no significant chemical security risk," CSHEMA says, and urges that they be exempted from DHS regulations.

Lawrence M. Stanton, acting DHS director of chemical security compliance, disagrees. "Existing fire and building codes and safety protocols are aimed at safety. None are aimed at security," he says.

Stanton says a significantly revised Appendix A to reflect the concerns of academia and others "will be released in early to mid-June."

 
Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society

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