If you work in a laboratory with harmful chemical vapors, you’ve most likely used a fume hood. A fume hood is necessary for keeping laboratory workers safe from volatile chemicals, vapors, and/or particles. Because of this, it may be easy to assume that a fume hood would also be adequate for storing chemicals. However, that is not the case. In fact, storing chemicals in a fume hood within a laboratory is dangerous and is prohibited by the National Fire Protection Association.
Fume Hood Function
The primary function of a fume hood or chemical fume hood is to protect laboratory employees. Using a fume hood properly assists with containing spills, providing shielding, removing odors, and reducing the concentration of flammable vapors. Anything that involves working with volatile materials should take place inside the fume hood. Working within the fume hood will ensure the contaminated air is moved completely away from the work area. The fume hood will push the contaminated air through the ductwork of the building and release it outside and away from laboratory personnel.
Related Article: Can a Bio-safety Cabinet be Used as a Fume Hood?
Proper Chemical Storage
Proper chemical storage depends on the type of chemical. For example, volatile and strong-smelling chemicals should be contained within ventilated storage, and flammable chemicals are required to be confined in proper flammable liquid storage cabinets. Many fume hoods include base cabinets underneath the hood itself. These cabinets are often labeled with what type of chemical can be safely stored in that specific area (see this example of a fume hood with an acid storage cabinet). Never store chemicals inside a fume hood. Doing so is a safety risk that could have severe consequences and put all staff in danger.
If stored within a fume hood, chemicals may react with one another and increase the risk of explosion. Additionally, any materials that are left open or uncovered within the hood will cause the hood to work constantly. Turning the hood off would result in the fumes being released into the laboratory. In addition, overcrowding hinders the airflow in your fume hood, leading to operator exposure.
In his article, Hoods for Chemical Storage: The Issue We Would Prefer Not To Discuss, Richard Palluzi discusses the dangers of storing chemicals in a fume hood. He states that “any accident involving an operation will always have the potential to be more severe if there is storage of hazardous materials in a hood.” Furthermore, Palluzi also elaborates on the NFPA-45 Standard on Fire Protection for Laboratories Using Chemicals outright prohibiting the storage of chemicals in fume hoods
Safety and Etiquette
Good laboratory etiquette is a must, and part of proper lab etiquette includes using only designated storage areas for chemical storage. Fume hoods are specifically designed to be used as a safety device for working with hazardous materials, not a storage unit. For the safety of yourself and others around you, never use a fume hood for chemical storage under any circumstance.
If you have questions or need assistance choosing the right product for your laboratory, please don’t hesitate to contact us.