November 2, 2023

NIOSH Recommends Ventilation Improvements for Lab Facility

NIOSH personnel found traces of illicit drugs on surfaces at a laboratory facility but no evidence of exposure to lab workers, according to a report newly available from the agency’s website. The visit was conducted through the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program and involved inspection of a state toxicology lab that analyzed biological materials for the presence of drugs and a regional crime lab that analyzed seized drug evidence. The two labs were separated by a shared hallway and had common restrooms and a break room.

Detectable levels of methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin were found on several surfaces, including vent covers, centrifuges, and benches in the toxicology lab and hood sashes, keyboards, and door handles in the crime lab. But none of the surface samples NIOSH collected exceeded the state remediation level for methamphetamine contamination of 1.5 mg/cm2, and tests of employees’ hands did not identify drug contamination.

According to the NIOSH report, drugs may have moved between labs because of incorrect pressurization within the facility that allowed air to flow from both labs into the hallway. Air is supposed to flow from low-hazard areas to high-hazard areas, according to laboratory ventilation guidelines. NIOSH recommended that the facility modify the ventilation system to maintain differential pressures.

Other agency recommendations included updating lab cleaning protocols, improving health and safety training, and updating personal protective equipment practices. For more information, read the HHE report (PDF). Other HHE reports are available from the NIOSH website.