10.2 Toxins


The effects of exposures to toxic chemicals are either acute or chronic. Acute effects are characterized by prompt or slightly delayed health effects, such as burns, allergic reactions, and immediate damage to organs such as eyes. Chronic effects occur over a long periods of time and are characterized by cumulative damage to organs including carcinogenic effects.

Minimizing or eliminating exposure provides protection from toxic hazards. To minimize exposure, it is necessary to determine the route by which exposure may occur, i.e., inhalation, skin contact, ingestion, and injection or puncture.


  1. Know the hazards of the material you are using. Review SDS and do additional research if necessary. Use less toxic materials if possible.
  2. Use and store toxic chemicals in established areas and in the smallest possible amounts.
  3. Store and transport toxic chemicals in secondary containment trays.
  4. Use these materials in containment devices such as fume hoods and glove boxes.
  5. Use appropriate protective equipment.
  6. Be prepared for spills and know when to take emergency action.
  7. Wash hands and arms immediately after working with toxic materials.
  8. Never eat, drink, smoke, apply cosmetics, or store food in areas where toxic substances are being used. Never smell or taste a hazardous chemical.
  9. Dispose of wastes in accordance with procedures in the EHS Manual Guidelines and Management of Hazardous Waste. As appropriate, perform chemical decontamination of washes and materials from experiments.
  10. Consider whether additional precautions are needed for substances with high toxicity. See also “Carcinogens, Reproductive Toxins and Highly Toxic Chemicals: Chemical Handling Procedures.”