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Chemical Safety

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is dedicated to ensuring a safe work environment for all Saint Louis University employees, students and visitors that is free of chemical hazards.

EHS provides services designed to minimize the risks associated with the use of hazardous chemicals in research, teaching, and clinical laboratories, clinical locations, and for all employees supporting these facilities.  We also help the laboratory community with applicable federal, state, and local regulations addressing chemical use in these areas.  For questions or concerns, please contact Environmental Health and Safety at

Lab Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment

Individuals should prepare for a safe laboratory experience by dressing appropriately for laboratory work. Appropriate clothing includes the following:

  • Shoes should fully cover the feet to protect against spills. No open-toed shoes or sandals are permitted, and shoes with mesh inserts (such as athletic shoes) are not recommended. One may choose to keep a pair of sturdy leather shoes in the laboratory to change into upon arrival.
  • Trousers or skirts falling below the knee are preferred. If shorter garments are worn, a lab coat or apron of below knee length is required. Preferred materials are resistant polyester, cotton or wool, since ordinary polyester and acrylics may be dissolved by common laboratory solvents.
  • Neckties, if worn, should be firmly clipped to the shirt or confined inside a lab coat or apron.
  • Loose, flowing garments and scarves should be avoided; they may easily pick up spills or trail through a burner flame.
  • In a laboratory where open flames may be used, long hair should be confined.
  • Loose jewelry should be avoided, since it may catch on equipment. Also avoid ornate rings that can damage protective gloves or make waring or removing gloves difficult.

Protective Equipment

Every laboratory must have available, and workers must be trained in the use of, safety goggles, face masks, lab coats or aprons, gloves and reaction shields. 

Goggles that completely enclose the area of the eyes are required, rather than spectacles, to avoid the possibility of splashes running down the forehead into the eyes. They must be worn at all times when anyone in the laboratory is working with chemicals, as well as when an experiment is running unattended in the laboratory. The choice of specific type of goggle is left to the individual, except that goggles chosen must conform to ANSI standards for splash and impact resistance.

Several spare pairs of goggles should be available for visitors, who are required to wear eye protection while in the laboratory.

Request Chemical Fume Hood Test

Chemical fume hoods are tested twice per year by Environmental Health and Safety to ensure they are working adequately.

If you think that your chemical fume hood is not working properly, email to request a fume hood test and we will perform an additional test.

Laboratory Hazard Signage

If emergency contact or hazard information for your laboratory has changed, request to have your laboratory signage updated. If you have any questions or have technical issues submitting the form, email

Request Updated Lab Hazard Signage

Mercury Thermometer Trade-In Program

The Mercury Thermometer Trade-In Program was developed by Environmental Health and Safety to help eliminate mercury and its associated health and environmental hazards. The EPA has made reducing mercury use a priority. The reduction in use of mercury is not only a U.S. priority, but is also an international priority.

An additional benefit to the reduction of mercury thermometers is the savings in cleanup and disposal of broken thermometers. The hazardous waste generated from a single broken mercury thermometer can cost in excess of $300 to properly dispose of.  To trade-in a mercury thermometer for a non-mercury option, email

How Does the Trade-In Program Work?

You can trade any mercury thermometer 1:1 for a non-mercury thermometer. We will also accept any mercury thermometers that you want to give up without a replacement. Your department will not be billed for trading in or giving us mercury thermometers.

Temperature Ranges and Limits

Non-mercury thermometers are typically available with a maximum of 260° C. If scientific procedures cannot be performed with non-mercury thermometers, Teflon-coated mercury thermometers should be used. The Teflon coating will help to reduce releases of mercury should a thermometer be broken.

Hazards Associated with Broken Mercury Thermometers

Mercury from broken thermometers presents an unnecessary risk to faculty, staff, and students working in laboratories. Mercury is a neurotoxicant and when spilled from a broken thermometer, it offgasses mercury vapor.

See Mercury Vapor in Action

Mercury also presents a hazard to the environment, if thermometers break while in a sink, the mercury could eventually end up in the sanitary sewer.