When working in a laboratory setting, preventing contamination should always be a top concern. If a sample becomes contaminated, you face repercussions like skewed experiment results, wasted resources, and serious health and safety risks—to name a few. To prevent sample contamination from occurring, laboratory personnel must have an understanding of the primary sources of contamination. Below, we have provided a guide to the main types of contaminants in labs.
Physical contamination refers to a sample becoming contaminated by a foreign object. Common types of physical contaminants include hair, dirt, dander, dead skin, fingernails, and other debris. To prevent physical contamination from occurring, all laboratory personnel should wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
Wearing gloves, lab coats, and goggles will help physical contaminants from getting into a sample and corrupting it. Laboratory personnel should also thoroughly clean all instruments and equipment. Doing so will prevent residue or debris from contaminating a future sample.
Chemical contaminants are another main type of contaminant in a lab. Chemical contamination refers to a sample becoming contaminated by a chemical substance, which has an undesirable impact on the culture system. If personnel aren’t careful, chemical residue could accidentally end up in a sample and cause contamination.
To prevent this from happening, laboratory personnel should keep samples covered when working with other chemicals. They should also use fume hoods to minimize airborne chemicals and clean all equipment after use. When cleaning laboratory glassware and other equipment, lab personnel should exercise caution. Any residue left over from chemical cleaning solutions could serve as a source of chemical contamination.
Biological contamination refers to a sample becoming contaminated with a living microorganism. These can include viruses, bacteria, algae, protozoa, and fungi. Biological contamination can result from unclean equipment, airborne transfer, improper sample storage, mishandling samples, accidental spills, or unintentional contact with the sample.
Laboratories should follow strict hygiene practices. This includes wearing appropriate PPE, cleaning equipment regularly, washing hands when necessary, and staying home when sick.
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