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A guide to gas monitoring in laboratories

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If you have reached this page, you probably own a laboratory or are responsible for health and safety in a laboratory and are looking to determine which gas monitoring solution is right for you.

We hope the information on this page will help you in your decision, whether your laboratory is a medical, industrial, scientific or educational one.

If you need any more advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us, and our friendly team will be more than happy to help.

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How are gases used in laboratories?

There are many different gases which are used in different laboratories. Some of the key ones are:

 

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide gas (CO2) is used in incubators, gas chromatography machines and mass spectrometers. Dry ice is also made of carbon dioxide, which can be used to freeze specimens and in cryogenic applications.

 

Nitrogen and inert gases

Inert gases (often know as 'noble gases') such as neon (Ne), argon (Ar) and helium (He), as well as nitrogen (N), are used as carrier gases in laboratories as they are unreactive.

Inert gases are also used in cryogenics, and to preserve specimens.

Reactions are often conducted under an inert gas environment rather than air in order to minimise the risk of fire.

 

Enriched oxygen

Enriched oxygen (O2) is used in gas production and gas blending stations.

 

The dangers of a gas leak

Many gases used in laboratories have no taste, colour or smell, which makes it hard to tell if there is a gas leak.

All it takes is a leak from a gas cylinder or fixed piped gas system to cause a potentially fatal incident.

 

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the air, but an increase in concentration can be dangerous.

An increase in levels can cause effects including headaches, reduced hearing and sight and an increase in blood pressure.

Higher levels can cause unconsciousness, coma and death.

Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and can concentrate at ground level. If you get a monitor, it is essential to put the central unit or alarm at head height so you don’t have to bend down to read it.

We sometimes see people getting carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide confused. The two are totally different gases and need to be monitored in different ways.

 

Nitrogen

Nitrogen displaces oxygen in the atmosphere, meaning an increase could mean that oxygen drops to a dangerous level and causes asphyxiation.

Liquid nitrogen expands when it evaporates. One litre of liquid nitrogen can turn into approximately 700 litres of gas, which can cause an oxygen-deficient atmosphere really quickly.

In 2011, a scientist was found dead in a laboratory after using liquid nitrogen to freeze blood samples.

 

Inert gas

Like nitrogen, inert gases displace oxygen in the atmosphere, causing oxygen levels to deplete.

 

Enriched oxygen

Enriched oxygen increases the flammability of any combustible matter in the vicinity, causing a potential fire risk.

Enriched oxygen can also be toxic, with high levels causing damage to the body.

 

Which gas monitor is right for me?

 

The Ax60+ - our fully customisable solution

Ax60+ carbon dioxide monitor

The Ax60+ is a wall-mountable carbon dioxide detector which comes with a central display unit (this is mounted in a convenient location such as an office), a sensor unit (installed at floor level where carbon dioxide gas could potentially gather) and an alarm unit (installed at head height).

The Ax60+ can be connected to a maximum of four sensors and eight alarms, making it fully customisable for small and large laboratories .

Later this year you will be able to add extra sensors in order to monitor a variety of gases. Our first option will be an oxygen sensor, able to monitor for oxygen depletion and enrichment.

The predecessor of the Ax60+, the Ax60, was shortlisted in the S-Lab awards in 2015.

 

The Aspida range - portable and backup monitoring

Aspida portable monitor

The Aspida is our hand-held gas monitor which can be used to protect staff from gas leaks, or used as backup when a primary gas monitoring system fails.

The Aspida can be used to monitor carbon dioxide or oxygen and also comes as a dual monitor which can monitor both.

 

The O2NE+ - accurate oxygen depletion monitoring

O2NE+ oxygen depletion monitor

The O2NE+ is an easy to use oxygen deficiency monitor which can be used to detect nitrogen leaks, as well as any other inert gases.

What is an oxygen depletion monitor?

 

The Safe-Ox+ - ideal for monitoring low and high levels of oxygen

Safe Ox+

 

Ideal for use in laboratories where nitrogen, inert gases and enriched oxygen are used, the Safe-Ox+ monitors both low and high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere.

The Safe-Ox+ has been installed across laboratories at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), which is based in the UK.

How can high levels of oxygen be dangerous?

 

OEM solutions

We also offer a range of highly accurate, robust original equipment manufacturer (OEM) sensors, which you can use in your own gas monitoring systems.

The 5S3 and MIR are infrared carbon dioxide sensors whilst the MEC (digital) and 3000SI (analogue) sensor ranges can monitor a wide range of different gases.

 

Is it the law to have a gas monitor?

It depends on which country you are in. Some countries have standards and recommendations when it comes to gases, and others don’t.

The US-based OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and European EH40 standards both have set permissible exposure limits for gases.

Italy has established a set of guidelines for storing nitrogen in laboratories, stating that laboratories must have an oxygen sensor in the area deemed at risk and a detection unit to highlight any danger before personnel enter, is placed outside the room.

Singapore has the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act which aims to protect workers in all workplaces.

There are also guidelines and legislation that are applicable in a laboratory environment, including The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 and The Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Bear in mind that it is not a legal requirement to follow standards, but even if it is not a legal requirement to have a gas monitor; it is highly advisable to have one in order to ensure the safety of your staff and customers.

 

I want to know more!

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If you would like to know more about gas monitoring, why not sign up to our blog where you will receive an article once a week, straight to your inbox.

If you work in the laboratory industry and are considering a gas monitor, we are more than happy to help recommend the perfect gas monitor for you.

Contact us today and we will help you choose. If you know which gas monitor you need, you can visit our distributor section to find your nearest supplier.

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