Lab equipment explained: Differences in cabinets, chambers, and work stations. BONUS: Why you need to stay protected with a Fentanyl enclosure

By: Jocelyne Terilli

There are two reasons lab technicians need to have the right equipment: to protect themselves from the chemicals they’re using or to protect evidence from being contaminated.

But all this equipment looks similar so it can be confusing as to which is what, how they’re different, and what the function is if you’re coming across it for the first time. As a follow-up to our February 2018 Lunch-n-Learn: Comparing drying cabinets, fuming chambers, & workstations, we’ve gone through each piece of equipment and explained the differences.

Drying Cabinets:

  • In a nutshell, drying cabinets are for wet evidence processing. They protect evidence technicians by removing blood-borne or biological pathogens by using HEPA filtration, and they have carbon filters which takes out vapors and fumes.
  • As a bonus, drying cabinets are a specific place to hold evidence before you process it. The locking door with case-specific evidence tags helps to protect the chain of custody.


TIP: HEPA filters stand for “high-efficiency particulate air) filter and 99.9% efficient for particles that are .3 microns or larger.


Polymerase Chain Reaction workstations (PCR)

  • Ideally, every lab should have a work station that will destroy DNA and RNA airborne contaminants so they will not cross-contaminate other samples.
  • These work stations are called Polymerase Chain Reaction Work Stations, also known as PCR work stations.
  • They have UV light to irradiate tools and work surfaces between DNA amplification processes, keeping test results more accurate.



Fuming Chambers

  • Originally developed in the Criminal Identification Division of the Japanese National Police Agency in 1978, cyanoacrylate adhesives or superglue react with the moisture of latent fingerprints. Latent prints become visible with a hard white coating once they are fumed with cyanoacrylate.
  • You can safely develop print in a fuming chamber, without exposing yourself to the harmful fumes.
  • These chambers provide a controlled humid environment for cyanoacrylate fumes to evenly circulate and create an evenly developed print.
  • During the fuming cycle, the door is automatically locked, which protects the technicians from fumes.
  • As soon as a print shows, you can hit purge and the cyanoacrylate fumes are removed from the chamber using carbon filtration.



Downdraft dusting stations

  • Dusting stations are used to protect lab technicians from the powders and chemicals they use.
  • Airflow pulls powders into the base and the rear wall of the dusting station. A HEPA filter captures excess particles before returning clean air to the room.
  • This dual-zone airflow protects the operator from breathing in powders and chemicals.


NARKsafe Fentanyl Filtered Workstation

The opioid epidemic has made drug overdoses the leading cause of death among Americans under 50, most of which are tied to heroin and fentanyl. Fentanyl is 100x more powerful than heroin and exposure to an amount equivalent to a few grains of sand can kill you.

Testing these substances needs to be done with the utmost care that everyone in your lab remains protected. Our NARKsafe Fentanyl filtered workstation is ideal for protecting lab technicians while handling and testing dangerous substances.

How it works:

  • The back wall of the station is a full filtration zone with prefilters and primary HEPA filter.
  • A permanent HEPA filter is at the top of the station. It is isolated and located after the primary HEPA filter.
  • With redundant HEPA filtration, this adds protection when prefilters and the primary HEPA filter are changed, keeping all lab technicians safe during routine maintenance.
  • In addition, a carbon filter removes the fumes and vapors associated with drug identification.
  • This station does not leak because of its horizontal laminar airflow with dual HEPA filtration.
  • It also features a dark blue base, letting you easily see what you’re testing.

Other ways to keep you protected is wearing full personal protection equipment. We developed a PPE kit based on DEA guidelines. It also includes a biohazard bag to dispose of the PPE once you’ve used it, according to your jurisdiction guidelines.

Please also contact us at or 1.800.356.7311 for FREE access to our webinar: Narcotics Investigation Safety: Handling Suspected Fentanyl



We’ve helped schools, universities, crime labs, and police departments determine which lab equipment they need and which fits their budget. Contact us today at or 1.800.356.7311 to get the conversation started.

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