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4.6 Eating, Drinking, and Applying Cosmetics in the Lab

Chemical and other toxic materials exposure can occur through ingestion of food or drink contaminated with these items. This type of contamination can occur when food or drinks are brought into a lab or when food or drinks are stored in refrigerators, freezers, or cabinets with laboratory materials. When this occurs, it is possible for the food or drink to absorb chemical vapors or other contaminants and thus lead to an exposure when the food or drink is consumed. Eating or drinking in areas exposed to toxic materials is prohibited by the OSHA Sanitation Standard, 29 CFR 1910.141(g)(2).

A similar principle of potential chemical or toxic materials exposure holds true with regard to the application of cosmetics (make-up, hand lotion, etc.) in a laboratory setting. In this instance, the cosmetics have the ability of absorbing chemical vapors, dusts, and mists from the air and when applied to the skin and result in skin exposure.

To prevent exposure to hazardous chemicals or toxic materials through ingestion, do not eat, drink, chew gum, or apply cosmetics in areas where these materials are used.

Wash your hands thoroughly after using any chemicals or other laboratory materials, even if you were wearing gloves, and especially before eating or drinking.

To help promote awareness, refrigerators and freezers should be properly labeled:

  • Refrigerators for the storage of food should be labeled, “Food Only, No Chemicals” or “No Chemicals or Samples”. 
  • Refrigerators used for the storage of chemicals should be labeled “Chemicals Only, No Food”.

Free refrigerator labels are available from the EHS Signs and Labels webpage.

Keep in mind that some exposures can result in immediate effects (acute exposure) while other effects may not be seen for some time despite repeated exposure (chronic exposure). Consuming food or drink or applying cosmetics in the lab can result in both types of exposure.