The term "aerosol" refers to the physical state of liquid or solid particles suspended in air. Aerosols containing infectious agents and hazardous materials can pose a serious risk because:
- Small aerosol particles can readily penetrate and remain deep in the respiratory tract, if inhaled.
- Aerosols may remain suspended in the air for long periods of time.
Aerosol particles can easily contaminate equipment, ventilation systems, and human skin.
The following equipment may produce aerosols:
- Magnetic stirrer
- Vortex mixer
- Syringe and needle
- Vacuum-sealed ampoule
- Grinder, mortar, and pestle
- Test tubes and culture tubes
- Heated inoculating loop
- Separatory funnel
Follow these guidelines to eliminate or reduce the hazards associated with aerosols:
- Conduct procedures that may produce aerosols in a biological safety cabinet or a chemical fume hood.
- Keep tubes stoppered when vortexing or centrifuging.
- Allow aerosols to settle for one to five minutes before opening a centrifuge, blender, or tube.
- Place a cloth soaked with disinfectant over the work surface to kill any biohazardous agents.
- Slowly reconstitute or dilute the contents of an ampoule.
- When combining liquids, discharge the secondary material down the side of the container or as close to the surface of the primary liquid as possible.
- Avoid splattering by allowing inoculating loops or needles to cool before touching biological specimens.
- Use a mechanical pipetting device.