Particularly Hazardous Substances

OSHA regulations require that provisions for additional employee protection be made for work with particularly hazardous substances (PHSs). These include carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity.

  • Acute Toxins - OSHA interprets substances that have a high degree of acute toxicity as being substances that "may be fatal or cause damage to target organs as the result of a single exposure or exposures of short duration.” These chemicals, associated chemical waste, and storage containers must be handled with care to prevent cross contamination of work areas and unexpected contact. These chemicals must be labeled as “Toxic.” Empty containers of these substances must be packaged and disposed of as hazardous waste.
  • Reproductive Toxins - These include any chemical that may affect the reproductive capabilities, including chromosomal damage (mutations) and effects on fetuses (teratogenesis).
    • Reproductive toxins can affect the reproductive health of both men and women if proper procedures and controls are not used. For women, exposure to reproductive toxins during pregnancy can cause adverse effects on the fetus; these effects include embryolethality (death of the fertilized egg, embryo or fetus), malformations (teratogenic effects), and postnatal functional defects. For men, exposure can lead to sterility.
    • Examples of embryotoxins include thalidomide and certain antibiotics such as tetracycline. Women of childbearing potential should note that embryotoxins have the greatest impact during the first trimester of pregnancy. Because a woman often does not know that she is pregnant during this period of high susceptibility, special caution is advised when working with all chemicals, especially those rapidly absorbed through the skin (e.g., formamide). Pregnant women and women intending to become pregnant should consult with their laboratory supervisor and EHSRM before working with substances that are suspected to be reproductive toxins.
    • Select carcinogens - OSHA defines a “select carcinogen” as a substance that meets one of the following criteria:
      • regulated by OSHA as a carcinogen;
      • Is listed under the category “known to be a carcinogen” or “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen” in the Annual Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program (NTP); or
      • Is listed under Group 1 (“carcinogenic to humans”) or under Group 2A (‘probably carcinogenic to humans”) or 2B (“possibly carcinogenic to humans”) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

A list of Particularly Hazardous Substances (PHSs) which includes known Select Carcinogens, Reproductive Toxins, and Acute Toxins can be found in Appendix D “Particularly Hazardous Substances”. See Appendix N for more information on reproductive toxins.

PIs and Laboratory Supervisors are responsible for assuring that laboratory procedures involving particularly hazardous chemicals have been evaluated for the level of employee protection required. Specific consideration will be given to the need for inclusion of the following:

  • Planning;
  • Establishment of a designated area;
  • Access control;
  • Special precautions such as:
    • use of containment devices such as fume hoods or glove boxes;
    • use of personal protective equipment;
    • isolation of contaminated equipment;
    • practicing good laboratory hygiene; and
    • prudent transportation of very toxic chemicals.
  • Planning for accidents and spills; and
  • Special storage and waste disposal practices.
Chemical Hygene Plan - Table of Contents