The University of Iowa

SAFETYmatters - You Can't (Always) Take It With You

Cleaning out a lab can be an exciting undertaking.  It may signal the end of a long and illustrious career, or the beginning of new opportunities elsewhere, possibly even here at the UI.  But lab clean-outs can also be a daunting task, as in ‘what do I do with all this STUFF??’  Even a relatively short stint in one location can result in the accrual of all manner of items.  Most items are harmless, such as beakers, staplers, and bench-paper; however, some items are potentially hazardous, such as chemicals, biological agents, and radioactive materials.  There are specific regulations governing how hazardous materials are collected, stored, transported, or disposed.  

EHS has a Laboratory Close-Out program to assist labs in closures and relocations, with special attention paid to proper disposal or transfer of hazardous material.  The program details can be found on the EHS website at:  There is a lot of information on the procedure, but below are some of the highlights and finer points.

Radioactive Materials

  • All radioactive waste must be collected by EHS staff.  The waste must be surveyed for contamination and radioactive waste tags must be completed for each container prior to pickup.
  • Equipment such as liquid scintillation counters or electron capture devices contain radioactive sources and cannot be disposed of until the sources have been removed by a qualified individual.  Similarly, radiation producing equipment should be disabled prior to disposal, and the x-ray tube and housing removed and collected by EHS as hazardous waste, due to the lead shielding.
  • Radiation Safety staff need to survey all labs once vacated to confirm that no radioactive contamination remains.  Only EHS staff can remove ‘Radioactive Materials’ signs from lab doors and work areas.
  • Only EHS staff can post new radioactive material use areas.  Contact Radiation Safety for assistance.
  • Transferring radioactive material on campus is permitted on foot, using secondary containment for each item.  Please note that transport of radioactive material using a vehicle is not allowed.
  • Shipment of radioactive material off-campus must be overseen by EHS staff.  Contact Radiation Safety for assistance.

Biohazardous Materials

  • University researchers wanting to transfer biological materials (with or without dry ice) to another institution should be aware of the following regulations: Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Department of Transportation (USDOT) – CFR 49 Part 171-180 and Dangerous Goods Regulations, International air Transport Association (IATA).
    • Individuals involved in the packaging and shipment of infectious substances must receive training on the applicable regulations and requirements before packaging/shipping such materials. The Shipping Infectious Substances program is designed to assist researchers in meeting the required regulations when shipping biological material.
  • University researchers wanting to transport biological materials on or around UI campus should follow the procedures outlined below to prevent spills and accidental exposure:
    • Biohazardous material must be placed in a plastic, leak-proof primary specimen container secured with a tight-fitting cap, Parafilm, or tape.  Each primary container should be labeled with its contents.
    • The primary container (blood tubes, agar plates, flasks, test tubes, for example) is then placed in a plastic or metal leak-proof secondary container with absorbent towels to cushion the primary container and absorb liquids in the event of a leak or spill. If a small number of plates or tubes are involved, a Ziploc bag containing absorbent material may be used.
    • The secondary container should be labeled with your name and contact information and a biohazard symbol, if applicable.
    • Dangerous goods are not to be transported in a personal vehicle - use a University-owned vehicle, if necessary.
  • Disposal of all biohazardous material needs to be done according to the Biohazardous Waste Disposal Guide


  • Please contact EHS’s Chemical Safety Section for assistance with disposal or transfer of laboratory chemicals.  Please allow 2-3 weeks to get a pickup scheduled and completed for all chemical waste, especially for labs with large quantities of waste.
  • All chemical waste must be labeled using the EHS hazardous waste label.  Labels can be obtained through the EHS website.
  • Transfer of chemicals on campus is permitted on foot for moves that are in close proximity.  Contact EHS Chemical Safety Section for any transfers requiring a vehicle.   


    • Transfer and disposal of toxins are handled on a case by case basis.  Contact the Biosafety Officer at 353-5679 with questions on transport or disposal.