Laboratories in research institutions use organic solvents in research and development. Nevertheless, the types of solvents in use have been seldom reported. This study was initiated to elucidate types of organic solvents used in large research institutions in Japan, with a focus on possible different use among research fields.
In 2010–2011, 4517 laboratories in seven large research institutions were visited. In accordance with legal stipulations, air in each laboratory was collected in polyvinyl fluoride bags and analyzed by direct injection into a gas-chromatograph for 47 types of organic solvents. In evaluation, the laboratories were grouped by 5 research fields, i.e., agriculture, biology, medicine, natural science, and technology and engineering.
Types of organic solvents commonly used in research activities were not diverse. Those commonly used were chloroform and 1,2-dichloroethane out of 7 Group 1 organic solvents (with high toxicities); 6 organic solvents, i.e., acetone and methyl alcohol in general, ethyl acetate, hexane and toluene in technology and engineering laboratories; and xylenes in medical fields out of 40 Group 2 organic solvents (with relatively low toxicities). Judging from solvent vapor concentrations, work environments in more than 99 % of laboratories were considered adequate. Nevertheless, use of chloroform in high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) resulted in inadequate environments in 30 laboratories (0.7 %).
Organic solvents commonly used were not very diverse. Work environments in research laboratories were generally good, but the environment with use of chloroform in HPLC analysis remained yet to be improved.