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Aerosol Production

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:

  • Centrifuge
  • Blender
  • Shaker
  • Magnetic stirrer
  • Sonicator
  • Pipet
  • 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.

May 2011
Reviewed November 2014