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Exposure in Labs (help)

Warren Gallin wgallin at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca
Sat Jun 18 11:26:33 EST 1994

In Article <17JUN94.25450732.0009 at MUSIC.CC.UGA.EDU>, SVHL000
>Hello:) My name is Annalee and I am just beginning my first undergrad
>research project in cell biology. I am concerned about exposure to
>radiation and toxic chemicals in the lab...today my mentor dropped a
>vial of phenol (which splashed on my forehead...go figure?). I washed
>it off thoroughly; however, I was not aware of how toxic/caustic etc.
>phenol was. Does anyone know if I need to do anything else to make
>sure the phenol won't burn or hurt my skin/health? Also, does anyone
>work with UV illumination boxes/photography (as in ethidium bromide
>flourescence of agarose gels)? I seem to have gotten an awful sunburn
>today, and I wasn't out in the sun! How do you all protect yourself
>from overexposure? I apologize for all these simplistic questions...
>I asked my mentor and he kind of laughed it off...and somehow I don't
>think it's too funny...I know there are risks inherent in any lab
>work, but I'd appreciate any input anyone might have about this...
>Many thanks in advance...my address is svhl at music.cc.uga.edu:)

1) Phenol can give you a very nasty burn if not treated correctly.  Washing
with soap and water was the correct move.

2) When working with a UV light box you shouldwear a full face shield to
prevent the kind of "sunburn" that you mentioned.  By far more important,
however, is to wear good UV blocking goggles.  The damage that the UV light
can do to your eyes is painful and long lasting.

I think anyone who laughs off the potential dangers of the reagents and
equipment in a lab is not fulfilling their duty as a supervisor.  I realize
that there are careless slobs who get ahead in the world, but they should
not be encouraged.  You might want to sit down with your mentor and discuss
your concerns; this may help you set up a clearer line of communication as
well as clarifying your worries.  If this does not work to your
satisfaction, you might consider talking to departmental superiors or the
occupational health and safety office.  It is possible to use the materials
and equipment in a molecular biology lab in a safe manner, but it requires
knowledge on the part of everyone in the lab and committment from the lab
head to run a safe operation.  You should not settle for anything less, in
my humble opinion.

Warren Gallin,
Department of Zoology, University of Alberta
wgallin at gpu.srv.ualberta.ca

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