Few States Provide Safety Guidelines For School Laws

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Interviews with the organizers of and participants in the Minnesota disposal operation, as well as with many academic and government hazardous-waste experts around the country, reveal that science teachers and schools are confronted with an array of obstacles that frustrate their efforts to dispose of unwanted and outdated toxic chemicals legally.

These obstacles include complex federal and especially state disposal regulations, the high cost of commercial disposal, and uncooperative landfill operators.

In addition, these interviews disclosed that teachers in many school districts around the country receive little or no guidance in hazardous-waste disposal procedures. The Council of State Science Supervisors, in their publication Safety in the School Science Laboratory, write that the availability of information on disposal techniques for laboratory chemicals is "limited."

Few states provide disposal guidelines for science teachers to follow, research revealed, and science and chemical organizations have made only sporadic attempts to offer teachers guidance.

For example, the Chemical Manufacturing Association's Laboratory Waste Disposal Manual has been out of print for three years, according to an assocation official. And two U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manuals on hazardous-waste disposal by "small generators" (such as schools) have also recently been discontinued.

The following recommendations for safe waste disposal, therefore, emerged from conversations with experts who are familiar with the situation in the nation's schools:

Contact nearby state and federal environmental protection agency officials to determine the proper disposal method for a particular substance, the applicability of state and federal disposal regulations, cost estimates, and for actual assistance in disposal of unwanted chemicals.

Notify local governmental agencies, such as the town council, the mayor's office, and fire and health departments.

Consult with teachers or schools in adjoining areas to discuss the possibility of joint disposal operations which would reduce the cost of contracting with a commercial chemical disposal firm.

Inquire about the possibility that waste-disposal officials from a local university or hospital might accept school waste chemicals.

Buy chemicals in smaller quantities, take yearly inventories, seek chemicals which are safer alternatives, do not keep chemicals on the shelf past their expiration date.

The following is a list of resources for information on chemical safety and disposal procedures:

Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals

National Fire Protection Association

Publications Division

Batterymarch Park

Quincy, MA 02269


Safety in the School Science Laboratory

National Institute for Occupational Safety

and Health
676 Columbia Parkway

Cincinnati, Ohio 45226


Safety in Academic Chemistry Laboratories

American Chemical Society
155 16th Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20036


Safety in the Secondary Science Classroom

National Science Teachers Association
742 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20009


(A revised edition of this publication, which will include an expanded section on handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals, will be available in the spring of 1982. The new edition was scheduled to be released this month, but the organization was unsatisfied with the scope of the attention paid to the hazardous-chemicals section.)

Landfill Disposal of Hazardous Wastes and Sludges

Noyes Data Corporation

Park Ridge, New Jersey 07656


Manual of Safety and Health Hazards in the School Science Laboratory

National Institute for Occupational Safety

and Health
676 Columbia Parkway

Cincinnati, Ohio 45226


(This publication, which will be available in several weeks, surveys major junior and senior high-school science textbooks and lists experiments included in them according to the relative dangers of the chemicals used. It also suggests chemicals that can be substituted for hazardous ones.)

Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous

Chemical in Laboratories

National Academy of Sciences
101 Constitution Ave., NW

Washington, D.C. 20418


Guide for Safety in the Chemical Laboratory

(By the Manufacturing Chemists' Associa-


Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.

New York, N.Y.

Vol. 01, Issue 12

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