Environmental Health and Safety

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Chemical Hygiene

When using chemicals or hazardous materials at American University, faculty, staff, and students are expected to follow all appropriate regulations and university policies. Once any chemicals or hazardous materials have been used, all waste must be disposed of properly.

Chemical Inventory

Each department is required to maintain an accurate chemical inventory in order to minimize waste, track reporting limits, and comply with hazard communication laws. The College of Arts and Science currently uses CISPro to manage their chemical inventory. Safety Data Sheets for every department can be found in American University's MSDSOnline e-binder.

Hazardous Waste Guidelines

Hazardous waste must be handled according to national and local guidelines. No amount of hazardous waste may be thrown into the regular trash or poured down the sink. Please contact Environmental Health and Safety to arrange disposal of all hazardous waste.

The following provides a summary of how each hazardous waste stream is handled at American University:


Broken glass, sharp plastic, plate glass, pyrex.

If not contaminated with an infectious agent, dispose of material in a glass waste box. When full, close it securely and bring it to the designated waste accumulation area for pick-up.

Glass pipettes, needles, syringes, scalpel blades, razor blades, glass microscope slides and coverslips.

These items must be disposed of in a sharps container. When a container is 3/4 full, close it and place it in a medical waste box provided by EH&S. Prior to the scheduled medical waste pick-up, tape the medical waste box closed and label it "sharps". Sharps waste and other pathological waste must be in separate boxes and may not be mixed. No box may exceed 40 pounds.

Animal Bedding

Soiled animal bedding generated from IACUC-approved research activities.

Soiled animal bedding that is non-infectious (Biosafety Level 1) should be double-bagged, knotted or taped closed, and placed in the designated waste bin to be disposed of via the regular trash. No bag should exceed 40 pounds. 

Biosafety Level 2+ labs must dispose of all animal bedding waste as medical waste, with red bags and biohazard boxes. Biohazard boxes are picked up by EH&S at pre-arranged times and upon request.

Biological Waste

Experimentally cultured stocks, plates, ethidium bromide gels, (non-sharps) materials contaminated with blood or other potentially infectious materials, materials contaminated with human mutagens, teratogens, carcinogens, or federal listed Select Agents.

Place medical waste in red bags only. When full, close bags and place in cardboard medical waste box provided by EH&S. Contact EH&S to schedule pick-up. Prior to a scheduled medical waste pick-up, tape boxes shut. 

Boxes must be under 40 a piece. Boxes exceeding 40 pounds will not be picked up.

If material can be autoclaved or otherwise sterilized so that it no longer presents a biological or sharps hazard, it may be disposed of as regular waste.

Pathological Waste

Animal carcasses, tissues, and organs generated from IACUC-approved research activities.

Bag and store all animal carcasses in the designated freezer only. 

Within 6 hours of a scheduled medical waste pick-up, pack bags in the biohazard boxes provided be EH&S and tape shut. Boxes must be under 40 a piece. Boxes exceeding 40 pounds will not be picked up.


Characteristic hazardous waste chemicals (flammable, reactive, corrosive toxic), such as solvents, acids, bases, water/air sensitive materials, and heavy metals.

Collect waste in a chemically compatible container. Ensure that the waste container is labeled appropriately with an AU hazardous waste label. When full or more than 120 days have passed (whichever comes first), securely close the container and place it in the laboratory's designated waste storage area.

Research Equipment

Any apparatus used in the laboratory for research purposes, such as liquid scintillation counters, gas chromatography instruments, refrigerators, incubators, and chemicals storage cabinets. This includes filters from biosafety cabinets, ductless fume hoods, air purifications units, etc.

Research equipment contaminated with any hazardous material must be decontaminated by a qualified individual prior to recycling or disposal. If the equipment cannot be decontaminated, it must be disposed of as the hazardous waste in contains.

Radioactive Materials

All waste containing materials that emit ionizing radiation.

No amount of radioactive material may be discharged into the sewage system (including all drains and toilets) or otherwise released into the environment.

Store in the restricted laboratory's waste accumulation area and segregate by the isotope's half-life.

For isotopes with half-lives less than 125 days, the Radiation Safety Officer will transfer waste to the decay-in-storage area at quarterly intervals and upon request.

Isotopes with half-lives greater than 125 days cannot decay in storage. The Radiation Safety Officer will transfer waste to the waste storage area on a quarterly basis and upon request.

Do not mix solid/dry waste products with liquid waste regardless of the isotopes involved.

Waste containers will be provided by the University's Environmental Health and Safety office or must meet the specifications set by the Radiation Safety Officer. 

Medical Waste Disposal Guidelines

Medical waste disposal guidance document

View Page

Additional Resources

Chemical Emergency Resources (WISER)

The Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders, or WISER, provides a wealth of information on hazardous substances. Although designed for first responders, it is a great resource for any individual seeking chemical identification support, health information, handling recommendations, environmental effects, and more.

Prudent Practices in the Laboratory

Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Management of Chemical Hazards is a great resource for those interested in learning more about chemical safety in the laboratory. Topics include chemical and waste management, laboratory facilities and security, applicable safety laws, and more. Downloads for individual use are available free on the National Academy Press website.

Exploring Laboratory Accidents

In 2011, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board issued an informational video exploring three laboratory accidents that have occurred at higher education institutions across the country. The events leading up to each accident and their implications on laboratory safety culture is discussed. A link to the video can be found under "Quick Links" on the right-hand side of this page.

For more information, please contact:

Leanne Wright, MPH, ASP
Assistant Director, Environmental Health and Safety
Phone: 202-885-2007
Email: pina@american.edu