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Abandoned Laboratories


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Small laboratories which combine research and development with public analytical support are very common. Large research laboratories are less common, but can usually be found in conjunction with an individual chemical manufacturing and product testing facilities. A laboratory will typically have numerous working benches, supplied with natural gas, and water/drains. Vented hoods are common at laboratories using volatile or fuming compounds and reactions. Storage shelves containing large numbers of individual chemicals in limited quantity are always present.


The raw materials are specific to the individual laboratory, but usually contain all classes of hazardous materials including explosive, corrosive, flammable or radioactive materials, mercuric products and metal compounds.


Due to the diversity of individual laboratories, waste streams and the affected environmental media are highly variable. However, commonly found waste groups include volatile, semivolatile, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metal compounds.

Severe building contamination may be present as related to broken chemical containers and poor housekeeping. A direct inhalation threat is also likely. Soil contamination may be associated with small burial pits encountered at rural lab locations.


All waste materials encountered on site should be visually identified and confirmed using immuno-assay, qualitative indicators, or wet chemistry field screening techniques. Radioactive materials are easily located using a scintillation counter. It should be noted that many of the waste materials may represent a significant direct contact and/or inhalation hazard to assessment personnel. Samples should be collected from nearby surface soils, drains, and obvious disposal areas.

On-site and local wells may be sampled if groundwater is an environmental concern. Installation of monitoring wells or other groundwater sampling techniques should be evaluated if groundwater contamination is suspected.


The majority of the laboratory chemicals will be labeled and in their original container. These can be inventoried and "lab-packed" for disposal. Analysis of each individual chemical is not required.

Large groups of small quantity unknowns can be field screened, grouped by hazard class, bulked, and profiled for disposal. Disposal analysis of the bulked material may be required by the receiving disposal facility. Suggested analytical parameters are:

Target Analyte List (TAL) metals and cyanides

Target Compound List (TCL)

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization

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