> The one upside was that we determined that the local ventilation in that room needed servicing.
This is my experience as well. Fugitive odors such as Jeff describes are a sign that the building's ventilation system is unbalanced and chasing odors in these situations can be quite frustrating for everyone. However, the lab community should understand that lab work should not involve alarming other occupants of the building with smelly research.
More specifically, my experience with the situation of an "odor coming from the autoclave room where someone had put something stinky in the autoclave" was when someone accidentally included a significant amount of phenol in an autoclave load. Initially people thought someone had spilled some cold medicine. However, this exposure lasted for about 30 minutes until several office people down the hall had received significant doses of phenol fumes and started losing feeling in their face and fingers. It took 24 hours of ventilation to clear the three story building of the phenol fumes. As in Jeff's case, the ventilation in autoclave room was found to be not operating as designed. Based on several similar experiences, I'm reluctant to assume unidentified odor events are facility hiccups rather than significant chemical releases.
Lab buildings require a lot more care and feeding than most stakeholders recognize.
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Environmental Safety Manager
Keene State College
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