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How Vapor Release Prevention Works

Some labs use hazardous organic chemicals—reagents with noxious and/or dangerous fumes that can have a detrimental impact on analysts.

by Cole-Parmer
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VapLock closed systems make it easy to improve laboratory safety by reducing exposure to vapors and hazardous solvent waste

Problem: In most laboratories, a variety of automated analysis equipment can be found running almost all the time. Some of these systems use hazardous organic chemicals—reagents with noxious and/or dangerous fumes that can have a detrimental impact on the analysts using those systems. The negative impacts of exposure can range from developed sensitivities to specific chemicals, to cancer and other diseases—not to mention the inherent fire and explosion risk that can occur with volatile vapors present in the air. Unfortunately, with many of these analytical systems, the release of these fumes into the laboratory atmosphere—from the bottles and containers holding them—occurs all too often. Frequently, the bottles holding the reagents on the inlet side of the systems are not sealed correctly, often only loosely covered with a thermoplastic film or aluminum foil—neither of which properly contain vapors emanating from the bottles’ contents. On the waste side, where used and contaminated reagents are collected, the situation is similar. Flow path tubing often passes through an open, unsealed hole on a large container. As the vapors are released from these open vessels, it forces scientists to be regularly exposed to hazardous chemical vapors. This creates an unsafe work environment for thousands of laboratory personnel and violates numerous governmental regulations in place around the world.

Solution: As highlighted above, there are two primary sources in most automated systems where harmful vapors are regularly released into the laboratory—the reagent bottles found at the inlet of a system and the waste containers into which spent reagents are collected. By addressing both vapor sources with innovative and costeffective solutions, the Cole-Parmer VapLock family of modular products works to help create true “closed systems” and limit scientists’ exposure to dangerous reagent fumes. On the solvent inlet side, VapLock engineers have developed unique threaded caps for most of the commonly found reagent bottles in the laboratory. Available in a variety of useful configurations, the VapLock brand bottle caps incorporate key features to ensure maximum functionality in today’s laboratories. These features include ¼-28 flat-bottom threaded ports to which flow path tubing can be connected, an integrated one-way check valve that allows air into the bottle but prevents the release of vapors, an integrated large-porosity filter to prevent particulate contamination of the reagents inside the bottle, and a special design that allows the cap to seal naturally against the bottle without the use of O-rings or gaskets.

On the waste containment side, at the heart of the VapLock product line, is a highly functional, adaptable, and easily expandable manifold, engineered with flexibility in mind. This manifold system can be connected to virtually any commonly used waste container, and it is equipped with a variety of threaded ports to which waste lines can be attached or that can be plugged if unused. If additional ports are needed to accommodate multiple systems or complex fluidics, the manifolds can be easily stacked to increase connection options. An activated carbon filter is attached to each VapLock system to adsorb organic vapors and prevent their release into the laboratory environment.

Through these primary products—as well as a host of accessories that support their use—the VapLock solution successfully and economically addresses the problem of vapor release in laboratories, provides a safer environment for workers, and helps organizations comply with government regulations.

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