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How to Quickly Clean Up Unidentified Spills

Hazardous chemicals present physical and health threats to laboratory workers if they are not managed properly

by Premier Magnesia
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Lab safety procedures and material safety data sheets provide instructions for the management of chemicals used in a lab. However, if an unidentified substance is spilled, these resources become clumsy and cumbersome in a time when reacting quickly and safely is of utmost importance.


The following is the common process a lab worker would need to follow for unidentified spills:

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  • Donning all available personal protective equipment
  • Containing the spill with an absorbent barrier
  • Testing it with pH paper to confirm the chemical is an acid or a base
  • Identifying proper spill response techniques
  • Neutralizing the spill
  • Testing again with pH paper to determine the spill has been neutralized
  • Taking appropriate measures to dispose of the chemical

Instead, lab workers could simply set up an absorbent barrier around the spill, pour Amphomag®—a universal neutralizer—slowly and directly over the spill to contain and neutralize it, then use a broom and plastic dustpan to sweep up and dispose of the material as non-hazardous waste.

This quick and safe technique is possible, first and foremost, because Amphomag® is amphoteric, so it can treat both acids and bases. Other neutralizer manufacturers have three or more different products depending on the material released. Amphomag® also has a built-in multi-range pH indicator that turns red when applied to acids and blue when applied to bases. As it neutralizes the spill, the color gradually changes to yellow or green.

The spill is neutralized in minutes, with no chance of misapplication and no need for formal training or special safety equipment. In fact, the natural magnesium-based chemical structure of this particular neutralizer allows it to neutralize caustic chemicals, volatile organic compounds, and dangerous inorganic chemicals without damaging the environment.

A group very familiar with neutralizing unidentified hazardous chemicals are the special police task forces charged with investigating methamphetamine labs. Jake Kelton, the founder of MERIT Training Programs, uses Amphomag® when he trains police officers to dismantle clandestine labs. Without this product, first responders would need to wait for a thirdparty hazardous waste cleanup crew to arrive at the scene, increasing the risk of exposure or chemical combustion.

With proper training, Kelton believes law enforcement agencies can safely deactivate and dispose of 90 percent or more of all gas generators, cooking flasks, and any mixed solvents found in meth labs. This reduces remediation time, liability, and potentially saves tens of thousands of dollars annually.

In any spill situation, it is critical to react quickly so that spilled material does not come into contact with people or enter the environment. Whether the chemical is identified or not, Amphomag® can provide the rapid response lab workers need to safely control a situation and keep everyone out of harm’s way.

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