Frequent Questions

Oxygen used at a hospital by technically qualified individuals

A hospital stores oxygen in a large outside bulk storage tank and delivers the material, as needed, throughout the hospital using a piping system (the oxygen is used only in the treatment of patients).  The bulk storage tank is routinely maintained by hospital maintenance people but the oxygen itself is administered to patients by nurses, doctors, nurses aides, and other persons trained in the medical field.  Furthermore, the hospital is required by OSHA to have available an MSDS for the oxygen. Is the oxygen a "hazardous chemical" pursuant to EPCRA Sections 304 and 311/312?

No. Section 311(e)(4) of EPCRA 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. EPA believes that this exemption is intended to include substances which are used or will be used at these facilities under the direct supervision of technically qualified individuals for medical or research purposes (October 15, 1987, 52 FR 38347). The exemption would include the storage of the substances at these facilities prior to the use of the substance. [Note: the term "technically qualified" is interpreted (for purposes of EPCRA Sections 304 and 311/312) to refer to individuals who are adequately trained in the research or medical fields, as appropriate (for example, doctors, nurses, research professionals).]

In the above example, the oxygen at the hospital is not considered a hazardous chemical because it is used for medical purposes and its administration is carried out by medical professionals (i.e., doctors, nurses, etc.). The amount stored at the hospital is also exempt from being a hazardous chemical since it will be used for medical purposes (even though the actual storage is supervised by non-medical persons). [Note: if medical or research facility stores a material, some of which will be used for medical or research purposes and some of which will not be used for medical or research purposes, only the amount stored for medical or research purposes is exempt from the definition of a hazardous chemical.]

Therefore, this exemption would not apply to building cleaning supplies used at research or medical facilities even though they may be used under the supervision of qualified individuals, because they are not used for medical purposes.

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 in medical or research facilities 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 are any release of these other hazardous chemicals above their reportable quantities.

 

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