There are industrial laundries that specialize in contaminated clothing. They have (or should have) the proper equipment and training to thoroughly clean the clothing, protect
the laundry workers and avoid cross-contamination. Yes, it costs money. But if the coats are contaminated with toxic chemicals it is irresponsible to clean them any other way. A university that is unwilling to take the proper precautions to protect its students,
staff and the general public has no business running a chemistry department.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
5 Gateway Center
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Work (412) 562-2580
Cell (412) 370-0105
Fax (412) 562-2584
Visit us on the web at www.usw.org
Rita Kay Calhoun asked:
But where are these lab coats being washed? I wouldn’t want to use a machine someone had just used to wash a lab coat. Not all “contaminations” are big enough to be apparent to others, and a student or TA is very likely to opt for washing rather than buying a new coat for “small splashes”. Doesn’t the possibility of contamination of public laundry facilities worry you?
This is a good question. If anyone out there has a good solution, please let us all know. Our new campus lab coat program (for research labs) will have a laundry/replacement component, but we have not been able to do so.
In our lab safety workshop, I ask students to consider whether including a lab coat in their general laundry is ‘prudent.’ Having been prompted to think it through, the ‘yuck’ reaction rises fast. I then suggest 1) trashing really dirty/damaged coats; 2) pre-rinsing before washing; and 3) a dedicated wash of lab coats pooled among classmates. I personally choose the pre-rinse option for my own coats and lab towels. (I don’t like what the rental laundry does to my coats.)
Balancing the question of laundry vs. students without coats (i.e., walking out of lab with contaminated street clothing), I think I’ll take some uncertainty about laundry, until we figure this out.
Another question: what contamination might remain in a home or commercial washer, considering the dilution factors? Are there substances likely to appear in Teaching Labs that you’d never put into your washer?
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