Toxicology labs are important working spaces for a number of industries. The work performed there is complex, and so these labs require a great deal of analytical equipment and specialized lab space.
If you are designing a new toxicology lab or retrofitting and renovating an existing lab space for toxicology, you will need to know what equipment is necessary for this to occur.
What Is A Toxicology Lab?
Toxicology labs are facilities where medical biochemistry occurs. Toxicology is used primarily to detect alcohol, drugs, and toxic chemicals within human tissues like blood, urine, and hair.
Many fields use toxicology, including medicine, criminal justice, and the pharmaceutical field.
What Happens In A Toxicology Lab?
Toxicology labs are usually either research labs or testing labs. Some labs affiliated with universities may do both, but the majority of toxicology labs do one or the other.
Research toxicology seeks to understand the effects of various chemicals on human health and well-being. This type of lab develops tests and antidotes for different toxins, studies and performs animal research, and runs experiments.
Testing labs, also known as clinical toxicology labs, run tests on human tissue samples. These tests can be done for medical diagnostic purposes or are associated with industry and government hiring and testing.
What Equipment Is Used In A Toxicology Lab?
The lab tables and benches need to be sturdy work surfaces that will hold up to prolonged exposure to potentially corrosive chemicals.
Toxicology labs also require all of the safety equipment of any other biological or chemistry laboratory, with additional equipment for protection from toxins. Clean rooms, air circulation devices, and proper ventilation are essential to the safe operation of a virology laboratory.
The addition of advanced anti-microbial casework can further improve the safety and operation of a toxicology laboratory. Working spaces should be also equipped with fume hoods, safety showers and eyewash stations, and fire suppression features.
While toxicology labs have varying equipment types, all toxicology labs rely on one major piece of equipment: the mass spectrometer.
What is a Mass Spectrometer?
Mass spectrometry is a technique used to determine the mass of different molecules in a sample, and a mass spectrometer is a device used to perform this measurement. This device is commonly used to analyze peptides, amino acids, and proteins.
Mass spectrometers can also be used to sequence DNA and analyze intact viruses. A mass spectrometer is a complex piece of lab instrumentation that performs best with custom bench space and is the focal point of any toxicology lab.
This tool is vital for identifying the chemical composition of various compounds; without it, identifying toxins would be much more difficult.
Toxicology Lab Equipment List
The following is a non-exhaustive list of equipment you will find in a toxicology lab, as well as that equipment’s uses.
Autoclaves are immobile machines that require dedicated countertop space. These machines store and sanitize samples and glassware. These machines work by exposing their contents to high-temperature teams, which sterilizes the contents.
Toxicology labs deal with dangerous materials and require special biohazard disposal containers and bags. These containers must be marked and handled properly.
A biosafety cabinet filters air and maintains airflow patterns to protect cultured cells from exposure to investigators and investigators from cells and toxins. Scientists in toxicology labs are constantly exposed to dangerous materials that require a proper working environment to use safely.
As such, every toxicology lab will use biosafety cabinets.
Blood Gas Analyzer
This machine is used to analyze and quantify the number of toxic gasses in the blood. It is very important for diagnostic toxicology.
Centrifuges separate heterogeneous mixtures into their various components based on these components’ different densities. There are multiple types of centrifuges necessary for toxicology, including low-speed, tabletop, refrigerated, and ultracentrifuges.
Cell Culture Material
Sometimes, toxicology requires culturing cells. Agar plates provide a substrate for cultured cells.
These are sealed with thermoplastic called parafilm. These samples are developed in an incubator and used for research, experimentation, or diagnostics.
Chromatography is used to separate mixtures, chemicals, and substances. The state of the mixtures being analyzed determines the appropriate technique for analysis.
There are several different types of chromatography, including gas, planar, paper, and X-ray chromatography among others.
Samples need to be dried in various ways, and there are multiple methods and machine types used in toxicology labs to achieve this. This can include standard dehydrators, desiccators that use a desiccant to dry the samples and materials, and lyophilizers, which freeze-dry samples.
This piece of toxicology lab equipment is typically found in testing laboratories. It is used to read and trace the electrical activity of the heart since most toxins have an effect on the heart and heart rate.
Electrophoresis is used to separate serum, DNA, RNA, or protein molecules based on their size and electrical charge. This equipment requires a special power supply, as well as gel plates.
Fume hoods protect investigators from toxin exposure. They require a powerful electrical supply and good knowledge of ductwork to correctly install.
These hoods direct air out of the building, which quickly disperses chemical fumes.
Many toxicology tests require material to be heated smoothly and evenly. As such, there are multiple types of heating equipment necessary for a toxicology lab.
These include Bunsen burners for standard heating and water baths with adjustable temperatures to heat flammable chemicals while preventing ignition. Thermostatically controlled heating blocks are also used for heating test tubes and microcentrifuge tubes.
Lab glassware is needed to run experiments and tests, as well as to hold samples. These can include beakers, flasks, graduated cylinders, test tubes, and other glassware.
The type of laboratory storage used in a toxicology lab includes freezers at various temperatures, refrigerators, and liquid nitrogen freezers. All of these serve to keep samples and reagents stored at cold temperatures for preservation.
Laboratory cabinetry and casework are also necessary for chemical and equipment storage. Anti-microbial casework is frequently used to store toxicology equipment, which helps maintain a clean environment.
Radiation Detection and Protection
Toxicologists sometimes work with radioactive samples or materials and require machinery to protect investigators. These include Geiger counters that detect radioactive material, radiation shields to protect investigators from radioactive materials, and scintillation counters that can detect gamma radiation.
These labs also need to be equipped with radioactive waste containers that allow for the safe disposal of radioactive materials.
Some chemical analysis needs to be completed under vacuum pressure, so toxicology labs need a vacuum supply to pump vacuum-enabled equipment down to pressure.
Examples of vacuum equipment used in toxicology labs include vacuum desiccators that dehydrate samples under vacuum pressure and vacuum ovens that heat samples under vacuum pressure.
Designing A Toxicology Lab?
If you are creating a toxicology lab, let the expert designers at OnePointe Solutions help. We have years of experience designing all types of labs, and we’ve worked with dozens of types of institutions to produce efficient, functional lab spaces.