Frequent Questions

Hazardous chemicals used for medical or research purposes

A medical facility uses liquid nitrogen for the nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer.  The spectrometer is used for medical diagnostic purposes.  In addition, the facility is required by OSHA to have an MSDS available for the liquid nitrogen.  Is the liquid nitrogen at the facility considered a hazardous chemical for purposes of Sections 304 and 311/312?

No.  Section 311(e)(4) of and 40 CFR sections 370.66 and 355.61 of the regulations exclude from the definition of "hazardous chemical", any substance to the extent it is used in a research laboratory or a hospital or other medical facility under the direct supervision of a technically qualified individual.  For purposes of Sections 304 and 311/312, EPA considers this exemption to apply to chemicals that are used in machines or instruments that are directly used for medical or research purposes (e.g., medical diagnostic equipment, incubators, and oxygen at a hospital or in an ambulance).  This exemption does not apply to chemicals used in machines or instruments that serve an ancillary function to the medical or research machines or instruments (e.g., fuel to run a hospital operating room emergency power generator).

The exemption would also not apply to chemicals used in machines or instruments that do not have a direct medical or research purpose (e.g., fuel to run an ambulance or other facility vehicles or an autoclave used to sterilize instruments).  This exemption would also not apply to building cleaning supplies used in research or medical facilities even though they may be used under the supervision of qualified individuals.

It is important to note that the exemption applies to the substances rather than the facility.  Under Sections 311 and 312, only those substances which are used for medical or research purposes are exempt.  Medical or research facilities may have other hazardous chemicals which are subject to reporting.  These medical and research facilities may also be subject to reporting under Section 304 if there is a release of any of these other hazardous chemicals at or above the reportable quantities.

 

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