Biosafety Cabinet FAQ's

Whom do I contact if I have a problem with my biosafety cabinet (BSC)?

All BSC service appointments should be scheduled either ENV Services (primary supplier) or Pharma-Lab (secondary supplier). To make arrangements for BSC services the PI and/or lab staff should contact the primary supplier to schedule an appointment. If ENV Services is unable to meet the PI’s service needs, the PI and/or lab staff may contact the secondary supplier to schedule an appointment. Contact information for each supplier is listed below.

To contact ENV Services to schedule an appointment please email uiowa@envservices.com or call Samantha Sanchez at 800-690-3368. If you attempt to contact Samantha Sanchez and she is out of the office or unavailable at the time of your inquiry, please request Tahirah Ayanna Reed via the same phone number.

To contact Pharma-Lab to schedule an appointment, please email Pharma-Lab@outlook.com or call Matthew Volmer at 402-639-3508 or Bernard Harrison at 531-205-3586.

For general questions related to your biosafety cabinet you may contact EHS by emailing bio­cabinet@uiowa.edu [4].

What is the difference between the surface decontamination I perform each day upon completion of my work and the decontamination service by the contracted suppliers?

Upon completion of work, lab staff should decontaminate the interior surfaces of the cabinet by wiping down all accessible surfaces with an appropriate disinfectant. Additionally, monthly or as needed, lab staff should remove the cabinet work surface to access and surface disinfect the lower plenum (a.k.a. drain pan). These surface decontaminations are needed for proper maintenance of your cabinet and are the responsibility of lab staff.

The decontamination service provided by our suppliers involves decontaminating the entire interior of the cabinet (including the blower/motor and HEPA filters) by fumigation with either vaporized hydrogen peroxide (ENV Services) or formaldehyde gas (Pharma-Lab). This decontamination service is required prior to repairs in which service personnel must access potentially contaminated areas of the cabinet (i.e. HEPA filter or motor/blower replacement). Additionally, this type of decontamination is required prior to cabinet relocation to ensure biohazardous material is not released during transportation. This service does not include cleaning of the cabinet interior surfaces.  As indicated above, lab staff are responsible for routine surface cleaning/disinfection. 

Can I relocate my BSC within the lab or move it to another lab space?

Cabinets must be decontaminated before they are moved, and certified after they are in place.  Labs are responsible for arranging decontamination services with one of our suppliers (contact info listed above) Labs are also responsible for arranging the movement of cabinets with University Facilities Management. If the cabinet is destined for surplus, please remove biohazard stickers after the cabinet has been decontaminated and contact Facilities Management to arrange for movement to surplus.

How can I hook up gas/vacuum lines to my cabinet?

Facilities Management should be contacted to hook up gas or vacuum lines to your cabinet. Remember—if you use a burner in your cabinet, you must use a touch-plate burner or micro-incinerator. 

How often does my cabinet need to be certified?

Your cabinet must be certified at least annually. For more information, please visit the Institutional Biosafety Committee’s BSC policy.

How much does it cost to certify my BSC? What if I don’t want to keep using it?

The current certification cost for both suppliers is$150. If you do not plan to use a cabinet for a period of time, it can be listed as “inactive”. Contact EHS (bio-cabinet@uiowa.edu(link sends e-mail)) to have your BSC designated as “inactive”. Cabinets that are marked as inactive must be emptied and turned off.  Prior to re-use, cabinets must have been certified within the past 12 months.

My lab is only using the biosafety cabinet for non-infectious work, so we aren’t “using it as a biosafety cabinet”. Do we still need to certify our cabinet?

Yes. If you are using your biosafety cabinet (it is turned on and/or there are materials in the work space), your cabinet must be certified at least annually. If you are not using your cabinet at all, it must be marked with an “inactive” sticker by EHS. Contact EHS Biosafety staff at bio-cabinet@uiowa.edu(link sends e-mail) to obtain a sticker.

Why can't the contractor give me a specific time for my BSC certification? You only list “AM or PM” on my appointment date.

Each certification takes approximately 40-60 minutes, depending on the number of adjustments that are necessary to the BSC. The technician will make a concerted effort to make all adjustments possible to get cabinets to fall within parameters, which prevents pricey repairs. Because some BSCs take longer to certify, subsequent appointments may be sooner or later than expected.

Following a repair, I have old/used parts that were taken out of my BSC in my lab—how should they be disposed?

Parts can be disposed of in the normal waste stream. For disposal of large parts, you should speak with your area’s custodial supervisor to arrange pickup. If you do not know your area’s custodial supervisor, speak with your Department’s program assistant for assistance.

My UV light isn’t working. Can EHS buy a new one for my lab?

In some cabinets, the sash must be completely closed to operate the UV light, thus providing protection of personnel. Check the function of the UV light with the sash fully closed. Although EHS can order a UV bulb from the manufacturer, a bulb with the same wattage and of the same size can be purchased from local vendors for a fraction of the cost. Check your bulb to record the relevant info (eg.T-8, 25W,) before you visit a local home improvement or electrical supply store to ensure you purchase the correct product.

Always check the life expectancy of the bulb to determine when you should replace the bulb—this is usually long before the bulb dies. Bulbs can continue working for months or years after they stop providing the necessary wattage for disinfection purposes.  In addition, dust gathering on the bulb will affect the disinfection efficacy. For these reasons, EHS does not recommend use of the UV light for disinfection purposes.

My lab is planning to purchase a new BSC. What needs to be done before I can use it?

To expedite the process of purchasing and receiving a BSC, contact EHS to discuss the purchase with biosafety staff. They will ask questions about the product you wish to purchase and the type of work you will be doing in the cabinet. When you have a delivery date or tracking number, notify one of the suppliers as soon as possible so that they can arrange to have a technician available to certify your cabinet. When the cabinet arrives, make sure it is located in the exact place it will be used and that all of the packing materials are removed (including those on the top of the cabinet). Ensure no one uses the cabinet until it has been certified for use.

Can my lab use another biosafety cabinet in our room while the technician certifies or repairs a different cabinet in the same room?

This depends. If the room is small, the technician may not have enough room to work comfortably and safely without disturbing your work. You should also consider that movement in the room can disrupt the sterile barrier that is created in the BSC you are working in. For the safety of personnel as well as the integrity of the product you are working with in the BSC, it is always best to avoid working in the area while the technician is present. However, if you are in a large open laboratory and the BSCs are separated by a large distance, it is possible to work in one BSC while a technician works on another.