Hazardous, radioactive, and stable isotope materials


Laboratory chemicals and gases

“General” laboratory chemicals, such as compressed gases, flammable liquids, preservatives, corrosives or solvents are allowed on-board, but must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Transport chemicals to and from the ship in a responsible manner. Chemicals must be double contained and properly labeled.
  • Include an adequate supply of neutralizing agents, buffers, and absorbents.
  • Personal protective equipment must be supplied and worn by user.
  • A complete Materials Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should be posted in the wet lab.
  • Materials must be kept in clearly labeled containers, and stored and handled in a safe manner.
  • All spills or contamination must be reported to a ship’s officer immediately.
  • The cabinet containing the chemical container should be lockable and should be locked when the chemical is not in use.
  • The quantity of the chemical brought on board should be an amount expected to be used on the cruise.
  • The lab should be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each day, and all chemicals and associated waste and empty containers should be removed at the end of each cruise by the same party responsible for bringing them on board.

Radioactive materials

Plans to use any special chemicals, explosives or radioactive materials must be approved by the Director of Marine Operations and Vessel Master prior to any cruise. Use of these materials must also be approved by the Safety Officer and must be accompanied by an emergency response plan, specialized safety gear, clean-up materials, and any special permits required by law.

MBARI radioisotope use policy

MBARI scientists desire to keep background radioactivity levels as low as possible aboard our ships to avoid interference with observations of natural isotope distributions. The use of radioisotopes is discouraged unless there is no practical alternative. Our policy is that radioisotopes will never be permitted within the permanent shipboard laboratory spaces. Non-MBARI ship users may apply to MBARI’s Radioisotope Officer for permission to use radioisotopes on MBARI ships. The user will have to provide appropriate licenses, written procedures, and provisions for receiving isotopes at MBARI. Users will be charged for a wipe down test after use. MBARI’s license does not cover external users so provisions for the investigators’ home institution to cover any anticipated use will be required. Users will be required to restrict the isotopes to a portable user-provided van that would be mounted on the deck. Users should consult with MBARI’s Division of Marine Operations before outfitting a portable van as the footprint for mounting vans on the Western Flyer is undersized and will not accommodate standard sized lab containers (maximum of 16 feet in length). This application should also document the experience the particular group has with radioisotope handling.

MBARI stable isotope use policy

MBARI policy on the execution of stable isotope enrichment experiments on our ships, and within the waters of the Marine Sanctuary, is covered under guidance set by the Marine Advisory Committee. This provides for revealing explicit plans for use both at the time of proposal submission, and in the Pre-Cruise plans submitted by the Chief Scientist a minimum of three weeks prior to the cruise. In this way there is time for all interested parties to be aware of the plans and to make suitable provisions, including adherence to the Sanctuary Permit guidelines.

Best practices

1)      Early indication of any planned stable isotope usage to be requested at the time of proposal submission.

2)      The holding of the equivalent of an Experimental Design Concept review attended by interested parties so that experimental protocols can be examined and approved before any usage begins.

3)      Awareness training of laboratory staff so that transfer of material outside the designated area can be avoided or minimized.

4) After all expedition activities at sea it is the duty of the science team to leave a clean laboratory area, including wiping of all door handles and drawer pulls in the laboratory areas. Experience has shown that these are common sources of trace cross-contamination.

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