Chemical Spills

Bench or floor (small spill):

    • Acids: for small spills sprinkle saturated bicarbonate solution (found on chemistry teaching lab benchtops) directly on the suspected acid spill until no more bubbling occurs, then clean up with a sponge and water.
    • Bases: Add water to dilute, then sponge and water clean-up.
    • Organic solvents: small spills in the hood will likely evaporate very soon; otherwise, use a paper towel and let that evaporate to dryness in a hood.
    • Solids: scoop with card and put in the appropriate hazardous waste container. Tiny amounts can simply be cleaned up with a sponge and water. Avoid using a dustpan and brush (raises dust and brush is contaminated). Never put oxidizers in the trash – could cause a fire.

Bench or floor (large spill):

    • Use spill mixture in clear plastic container in prep room (consists of sand, bicarbonate, and cat litter, so suitable for all spills). Note to instructors: Dispose of used sand in white bucket with lid (stock room has these) and fill in hazardous waste label.
    • NOTE: For a large solvent spill (e.g. broken bottle), use the rapid exhaust feature on hoods, and leave the lab. Contact Margaret Rakas (585-3877) immediately. Alternatively, call public safety (585-2490) and request that they contact Margaret Rakas or Richard Korzeniowski.

Clothing or Skin (Remember to wear gloves and lab coat when handling chemicals)

    • All chemicals– rinse contaminated skin immediately under cold, running water for 15 minutes. Consult health center by phone for advice if a small area is affected (have SDS handy).  Remove contaminated clothing immediately to prevent skin contamination, and rinse with copious water (even so, for concentrated acid spills, cotton develops holes on laundering, so wear old clothes). 

Broken glass:


    • use dustpan and brush to sweep up and dispose in labeled white cardboard box only (at window end of benches, along with brush and dustpan); never put glass in the regular trash, and don’t put paper and other non-glass trash in the broken glass container.  Ask TA or instructor for replacement glassware.


    • scoop up with card and put into plastic bucket or jar with lid. Label hazards appropriately and put in waste hood.

Mercury Device Remediation Requirements:

In order to protect the health of those in the labs, offices and common spaces of Ford, Sabin Reed, McConnell, Bass, and Burton, and to prevent contamination spreading outside of laboratories, the following interim mercury remediation policy is in effect. “Any breakage of a mercury-containing device (such as a thermometer, barometer, manometer, etc.), which results in any spillage of elemental mercury must be remediated using the steps below:

All initial mercury spill cleanup must be supervised by a faculty or staff member. All mercury spill cleanup must be inspected by either Margaret Rakas or Richard Korzeniowski before the area can be reopened for normal activities. Students may not assess or remediate any incident involving broken mercury-containing devices unless under the direct supervision of a faculty or staff member.

1. Initial Steps

a. If a mercury spill has occurred in the context of a larger emergency (e.g. fire, other hazardous, chemical spill, or medical emergency) a fire alarm should be pulled as space and building are evacuated. From a safe location call 800 (Campus phone) or 413-585-2490 (cell phone).

b. Where there is only a mercury spill those individuals in the area of the spill should travel immediately to the nearest phone, avoiding the area of the spill. Call the supervising faculty or staff member by phone if they are known to be in the immediate area.

c. A call to x 2490 (413-585-2490) to report a broken mercury device and ask they contact Margaret Rakas or Richard Korzeniowski MUST be made even if the faculty member is available. Once the phone calls have been made, the caller must stay close to the spill site to provide information to the responders. Wait for either the faculty member or Margaret/Rich to arrive.

d. Do not walk around more than necessary as shoes or pants may be contaminated and ‘shed’ minuscule mercury droplets. Keep others away from the contaminated area. Mercury droplets can travel a significant distance; it is best to assume at least a 5-foot radius in the area of the breakage/spill.

2) Next Steps:

a. If the faculty or staff supervisor is in the immediate area, mercury cleanup can begin if the faculty/staff member is familiar with the mercury spill response procedures and does not want to wait for assistance. Important: never use a vacuum cleaner; instead, push pools of mercury together with cardboard, index cards, pieces of cardstock (a file folder is a good weight for this), or use a glass
pipette with a bulb to pick up droplets.

b. If the faculty/staff member does not feel comfortable assessing the situation or beginning cleanup, keep the area clear until Margaret or Rich arrive.

c. Activities in the area of the spill must cease until spill clean-up is completed and assessed to ensure there are no tiny mercury beads remaining. Those in the immediate vicinity of the spill must have their clothes and shoes checked for mercury droplets and should not leave the area of the spill until testing has occurred.

d. Margaret/Rich will assess the spill cleanup and determine whether additional remediation is necessary or if the area may be re-opened for normal use.

We understand these guidelines may result in significant inconvenience to faculty, staff, students, and other researchers; however, the potential health effects and disruption of space use and programming from mercury contamination in lab and other work/common spaces are significant reasons for concern. Faculty and staff can reduce the impact of this policy on their laboratory operations by replacing mercury-containing devices with alternatives wherever possible, and cautioning researchers to be extremely careful when using mercury-containing devices.”