Lab security is not just for the big guys
Jul03

Lab security is not just for the big guys

In catching up with my reading of the Journal of Chemical Health & Safety, I was struck by the paper "Lions, tigers, and bears: Managing research security in academia," by Maureen Kotlas, director of environmental health and safety at the University of Missouri, Columbia. I was particularly interested in the various regulatory requirements for development of security plans for laboratories, and it occurred to me that most of these requirements don’t actually apply, in particular, to smaller academic facilities. Maureen lists DHS, DOT, NRC, USDA, HHS/NIH, CDC, and AAALAC as all having requirements to assess security measures in labs (please forgive the abbreviations – just spelling those out would take half a page!). Most of those requirements apply only to certain types of labs, particularly those with animals or doing clinical work. In fact, most academic laboratories would only have to deal with the DHS requirements, and then only if they have threshold quantities of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards. So, what are the real drivers for chemical security in academic labs, and how secure are chemicals in academia? Having traveled abroad and visited chemistry departments in other countries, I don’t see any consistency in chemical security. Some labs have chemicals kept so secure there would appear to be no chance of theft, deliberate misuse, or vandalism. Others present almost an open invitation to anyone with a desire to blow up things, outfit an illegal drug lab, or poison someone. The Kotlas article touts security devices such as key-card entry, pan-tilt cameras, and vehicle access control. All of those can be effective parts of a security plan, but most are likely too expensive for smaller institutions to implement. I see two general problems in the area of lab security. One is a lack of resources for many smaller colleges and universities. The second is a laissez-faire attitude that many facilities need to work to overcome. Security risk and vulnerability assessments are not difficult or necessarily expensive. A simple walk-through of facilities by someone who doesn’t work there but knows what to look for is a good start; I’d recommend the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety’s security vulnerability checklist for anyone who isn’t sure how to proceed or what to look...

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In Print: Chemistry Labs Sound Like Music
Apr02

In Print: Chemistry Labs Sound Like Music

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN. Sticking with the music theme from yesterday's Newscripts blog post, C&EN Senior Editor Linda Wang explores how chemistry instruments are turning into chemistry instrumentals in this week's print edition of Newscripts. While Linda wasn't able to cover the entire breadth of chemistry-inspired music currently popping up online (such as the above piece from musical act Boy in a Band), she was able to profile John LaCava. LaCava, a musician and biology research associate at Rockefeller University who describes himself as "just a young punk from the wrong side of the tracks" who "got sucked into science while studying biotechnology at MassBay Community College" (you know, like all hoodlums), posts music he and his bandmates create using lab equipment such as centrifuges and magnetic stir bars to the website Sounds of Science. Click here to check out some of their mad beats, including Linda's favorite, "96 Tubes." Taking a step back into the past, Linda's column also discusses recent research into a proposed method for preserving China's Terra-Cotta Army Warriors. The clay sculptures that were buried with the first Chinese emperor long ago as a means of protecting him in the afterlife are at risk of deterioration caused by air pollutants and heat. To combat this problem, researchers suggest using instruments similar to air conditioners to form a protective "air curtain" around the sculptures. "I think it’s a fantastic idea!" says Linda. "I don’t mind having the invisible curtain if it means others will be able to enjoy the relics for years to come." So, as Linda puts it, "if you’re interested in making music with science or using science to aid in cultural preservation, this Newscripts column may be just for...

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