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Detoxifying a tech room.

Dear Green Tech:

I was wondering if you have any ideas that I could use to detoxify my tech room? I have noticed that many products we have here in our shop may contain hazardous chemicals and have some health concerns as a result. Thanks for any advice you can offer.

From Toxic in Toronto

Dear Toxic:

This reminds me of that scene from The Wizard of Oz, adhesives and solvents and lubes, oh my. As technologists, we spend most of our time fixing a problem inside the tech room. You may not realize that those pumps, sprays, and aerosol cans stored inside your storage cabinet may be highly toxic to everyone working in that space. It's those WD-40s, the Jig-A-Loos and the other petroleum-based products we have become so accustomed to using that really concern me, as a tech. No matter what the sale price is at Canadian Tire, they aren't worth it.

Chemicals such as petroleum distillates (also known as hydrocarbon solvents), organochlorides and volatile organic carbons (VOCs) are just a few of the common building blocks in solvents, paints and oils. Things like formaldehyde, naphtha, methylene chloride, and perchloroethylene are highly toxic to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, respiratory irritation and acute toxicity. These chemicals can also be very flammable.

The best way to address the problem is to take a current inventory of all of your chemicals. Once you know what items are used most frequently, look for suitable alternatives and eliminate the suspected culprits from the shop, focusing on those with greatest health toxicity.

Luckily, today we have numerous environmental options that can easily take the place of those standard commercial brands.

A great line of natural lubricants are from Lloyds Laboratories, made right around the corner in Peterborough, Ontario. Their product line offers everything from corrosion inhibitors and lubricants to air dusters and graffiti removal. The other great thing about these products is that they are readily available at Princess Auto stores--the more reason for me to visit my favourite place.

Another Made-in-Canada solution is the Quatro Corporation, located in the heart of Toronto. They also have an entire catalogue of environmentally responsible products ranging from lubricants to parts degreasers and drain cleaners.

Keep in mind that whatever product you look at purchasing should be rated as incidental food contact (food grade/USDA H1). An even better option is to source products with third party certification, like EcoLogo, to ensure that it truly is as it claims to be--naturally safe.

And after all the hard work is done and it's clean up time, there's nothing better than Worx all-natural hand cleaner.

The hardest product to phase out will be paints. There are a number of options for interior paints for walls and furniture. Unfortunately, those options are not readily available in a VOCs-free format for those projects involving plastics and metals. The only recommendation I can make is to work in a well-ventilated area and wear an N95 respirator to reduce exposure. Allow the paint to dry and off-gas as much as possible before using the painted item in a well populated area.

Once you have purged all the old products from the tech room that you can, update your Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) binder and remove those Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) no longer in use.

Now that you have a fully stocked storage cabinet of eco-based chemicals, what do you do with the old unwanted toxic stuff? Well, here in Ontario we have the Orange Drop program through Sustainable Ontario. To find a drop-off location, go to and search for a location nearest the hospital. Other provinces have similar programs in place. Do what you can and minimize your environmental impact.

You will be surprised at how easy it is to find healthier and more cost-effective alternatives. These changes will have a direct improvement in air quality for your workspace but, more importantly, an improvement in the health of your co-workers.

So the next time you are doing a PM on a machine, hopefully it will be a little less toxic.

For inquiries regarding The Green Tech, please contact Rejean Quesnelle:

By Rejean Quesnelle, AscT, Renal Technologist, Halton Healthcare Services, Oakville, ON

Copyright [c] 2010 Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses and Technologists
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Title Annotation:Ask the Green Tech
Author:Quesnelle, Rejean
Publication:CANNT Journal
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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