Fume hoods in St. Albert Hall are safe, official says

Fume hoods like this one filters hazardous gases from entering labs.

Fume hoods like this one filters hazardous gases from entering labs.

In the wake of a student publicly voicing concerns that the fume hoods in St. Albert Hall are “unsafe,” a University official responded by saying the fumes have been “inspected.”

Dr. Colleen M. Greaney, Ph. D., director of environmental health and safety at the University, oversees that all the buildings on campus comply with official safety standards.

In an interview with the Torch, she said students who work at St. Albert’s labs should feel secure that the new and old fume hoods, a ventilation device that filters labs from hazardous or toxic gases, vapors or dust, undergo annual and periodic inspection by the FDNY.

Students expressed their concerns about the fumes to administrators at an academic forum Oct. 10.

Greaney said to ensure a lab is safe from possibly toxic fumes, a piece of tape is placed on the inner rim of the fume hoods and if it’s waving due to incoming air, it’s good to go. If not, nothing can be done in the room and facilities has to repair it.

“We have a fairly robust program, we inspect our hoods annually and periodically do inspections throughout the year,” she said.  “All the hoods pass inspections and as far as I know they are working.”

Brian Amancio, who’s majoring in pre-med and chemistry, originally spoke out about the fume hoods at the academic forum, said the newer hoods break down constantly and prevent his research team from doing their work.

“Half of the time, we can’t even do our work and the smell in the lab is unbearable sometimes,” he said.

When asked how unsafe he felt in the labs at St. Albert Hall from a scale of 1 to 10, he said “6” because of the hoods not working properly.

In response to that, Greaney said the department abides by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations and said it’s not out of the question that the equipment could have outage.

“Mechanical equipment can break down and any time that happens we address it as quickly as possible,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a health and safety issue for our fume hoods to be working. We work closely with facilities, our customers at the labs and we’re on top of it.”