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A wire gauze is most commonly used in a laboratory and is a very important piece of equipment that is used frequently in that particular environment.
Wire gauze is best described as a thin sheet of metal with a net like pattern or a wire mesh.
In a laboratory, the wire gauze is specifically used with a bunsen burner.
The wire gauze is either placed on top of a tripod or on top of a support ring which is attached to an adjustable stand, with the bunsen burner directly underneath.
A glass beaker can then be placed on top of the wire gauze surface and the heat from the bunsen burner will then be diffused, causing no damage to the glassware.
Glassware cannot be heated with a direct flame, which is why a wire gauze is required to diffuse the heat from the flame as it protects the glassware.
There are actually two main types of wire gauze which are a woven wire gauze and wire gauze with a ceramic centre (as in the photos above).
Although both types have the same ability to transmit heat efficiently, the gauze with a ceramic center enables heat to be dispersed more evenly.
Reason being that the ceramic in the centre of the wire gauze is enmeshed at high pressure, which prevents it from peeling.
Wire gauze is woven from various metal wires such as steel, copper, iron or nichrome.
Nichrome alloy in particular is very hardwearing.
You may or may not be aware, but at the end of last summer (2018) the HSE issued a warning about asbestos in wire gauze used with bunsen burners.
They had become aware of a couple of different suppliers that were supplying the gauzes with asbestos containing centres.
The HSE said they were taking the necessary steps to halt the supply of the asbestos containing gauzes, but wanted to warn the public.
Those affected would be schools, colleges and laboratories who use the wire gauzes.
HSE did conduct analysis of the gauzes in question and identified that they are fibrous in nature and did contain some asbestos.
They advised that the risk from asbestos in the gauze when used with a bunsen burner will generally be very low for various reasons.
These reasons mainly being that most of the gauze material is non asbestos and that any physical contact with the material itself is very brief.
As a result of this, any asbestos fibers that are released into the air will be very minimal.
Despite the low risk, it’s worth bearing in mind that the material is soft and crumbly, and so some small particles or fragments may break off during use.
Also, particles may well break off while the item is in storage through abrasion or impact.
Although any risk from asbestos is minimal, it is best to use precaution and dispose of the gauzes to prevent any exposure to asbestos.
This is especially applicable to schools as gauzes that contain asbestos can’t be easily distinguished from those that don’t.
School staff should not handle, use or move any wire or mesh gauzes they currently have until they’ve checked with their supplier as to whether or not they are likely to contain any asbestos.
If, after having checked with the supplier it’s confirmed that asbestos is present, then the gauzes must be disposed of correctly.
In the event of non asbestos containing gauzes that are stored directly alongside asbestos containing gauzes, these should subsequently be treated as contaminated waste and disposed.
You will need to make sure the asbestos contaminated gauzes are disposed of safely and in the correct manner.
A licensed contractor won’t be required considering this is low risk work, but the work should be done by a competent and trained person.
Any gauzes stored in a container should be disposed of in that same container to prevent further handling of the gauzes.
However, if for any reason this isn’t possible, the gauzes should be dampened carefully with water using a spray bottle that also contains a small quantity of detergent.
After the gauzes have been dampened, they should be placed into a heavy duty polythene asbestos waste bag before being placed in a second bag and then labelled accordingly.
You may find it best to put the gauzes into a plastic container before placing into the asbestos waste bag, as the corners of the gauze are very sharp.
It’s important that you also ensure that any other debris or excess water from the gauzes is wiped up using a damp cloth, and then the rag is disposed of in the same manner (ie double bagging).
As the asbestos containing material is classed as hazardous waste, it may only be transported by a licensed waste carrier to a licensed site.
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