Criminal Poisoning Arrest at a Hometown Chemical Company

Here’s a brief on a sad story I came across while trolling for news at home via northjersey.com.  A former employee at a Carlstadt chemical plant allegedly attempted to poison a coworker’s coffee with an antifreeze ingredient and sprayed acid on her coat, Carlstadt Police said. [. . .] A supervisor had allegedly observed a video of DeJesus putting methanol, commonly used in antifreeze, into a coworker’s coffee, Carlstadt Det. John Cleary said. The chemist was also accused of spraying [t]richloroacetic acid, which is used to chemically peel skin, on the same employee’s coat, purse and workspace. These substances were part of the company’s inventory, authorities said. I think I understand why she’s a former employee. The accused listed her address in my hometown of 11,000, Wallington, just on the other side of the tracks (literally) from her employer, Sonar Products. The writer, Meghan Grant of the South Bergenite newspaper, seemed to underestimate the risk of drinking methanol. She cited liver and kidney injury without noting that formic acid and formaldehyde metabolites could cause blindness in the victim. I left a note for Grant to keep us apprised on the status of the victim. Source: Grant, Meghan. Carlstadt chemist accused of poisoning coworker. South Bergenite, 15 November 2012....

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“Food That Doesn’t Contain Any Chemicals” – Guardian Science
Nov24

“Food That Doesn’t Contain Any Chemicals” – Guardian Science

[See addendum at end of post] The Guardian? Say it ain’t so! Ever wonder why the public has an irrational fear of anything labeled, “chemical”? Well. . . The book section of Guardian Science has been running a contest since 19th November to win six books shortlisted for the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books 2012. The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker The Information by James Gleick My Beautiful Genome by Lone Frank Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe Lofty books, though I must admit to not having gotten to any yet (I’m currently stuck on Sid Mukherjee’s Pulitzer prize-winning tome, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer). To enter the contest, one need only answer four “science” questions (and, sadly, be a UK resident.). Let’s take a lookie-see at one of those questions: A mega-tip-of-the-hat the London nanochemist Suze @FunSizeSuze and Oxford’s Nessa Carson @SuperScienceGrl for alerting me to this travesty via Twitter. As Suze tweeted: Most surprising to me is that this contest has been up since Monday and will run through 29th November. That’s another five days to attract ridicule. On one hand, I jest. But this is one serious example of why the public has chemophobia. We know several superb science journalists at The Guardian so I’m certain that the book editor(s) didn’t run this quiz past them. But to let such a question go live online? To win six science books shortlisted for a major award? I hope that The Guardian will quickly remove this question and/or print a correction.   Addendum: After seeing a recent tweet from @guardianscience about their “(slightly tricksy) competition,” I suspect that the question is meant to be one in which no answer is the correct answer. If so, they’ve done a lovely job in getting the social mediasphere to talk about the contest. I still object to using this as a trick since it feeds chemophobia among some, but I can also see that value in using it for a science book...

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Okay, Who’s Huffing Vicks VapoRub?
Nov14

Okay, Who’s Huffing Vicks VapoRub?

One of the fun things about having a blog is the traffic analytics feature on the dashboard of WordPress (although I really miss the features of SiteMeter that don’t run on WordPress because it doesn’t accept JavaScript. But I digress.) Besides the addictive nature of looking at one’s traffic numbers, I always find it interesting to look at the search terms that bring people to our humble little corner of CENtral Science. I became hooked on this way back when I started the original version of Terra Sig on Blogger: in February 2006, I had an unusual spike in traffic originating from the UK via the search term “terra sigillata.” So, I posted this and learned this. Usually, search term hits tell me that something has come up in the news. But, alas, I cannot find anything recent that would account for Vicks VapoRub to elicit much searching. Perhaps telling is that all 27 searches came via a misspelled search for “vicks vapor rub.” (By the way, the search term brought folks here to read this post I wrote on Vicks VapoRub after a 2011 PR snafu with journalists like Ivan Oransky at Reuters Health. I ended up writing a bit more about the North Carolina pharmacy history that brought the world this lovely concoction.) I do know that misguided youth will huff volatile chemicals for the acute high one might get. Vicks is most commonly used to enhance the experience of MDMA (ecstasy) – I’ve seen kids at raves wearing N95 facemasks inside which they have smeared the VapoRub. So, what’s with you people wanting to know about Vicks...

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Thoughts on the “Doctoral Glut Dilemma” Webinar

As I wrote last Thursday, ACS Webinars featured an hour-long discussion on the perceived overabundance of PhD-level chemists and potential solutions to employment challenges. The site should have the entire discussion archived within a week. I participated in the session and ended up posting my thoughts at the new Forbes.com home of my other blog, Take As Directed. I’m hoping to get comments from a wider group of readers over there who might have impact on hiring of chemistry PhDs. One of the major points that struck me was the view by Harvard economist, Dr. Richard Freeman, that the chemistry job market might bounce back more quickly than the biosciences. But he views this comeback to occur slowly over the next three to four years. Freeman attributes chemistry’s upper hand to two factors. First, US doctoral chemistry programs have had a fairly constant PhD supply rate over the last 40 years of approximately 2,000/year. In contrast, the biosciences have exploded from about 3,000 PhDs/year in the 1970s to 15,000 during 2010. Second, Freeman states that chemistry is far less dependent on federal research funding since 50% to 75% of chemistry PhDs ultimately go on to work in industry. As such, he expects the recovering economy to help chemists far more than those in the biological and biomedical sciences. I’d love to hear your feedback now or after the webinar is posted later this week. In the meantime, check out my thoughts over at Forbes.com. Addendum: I’ve since learned that chemistry bloggers Chemjobber and See Arr Oh have posted a podcast discussing this ACS webinar....

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Today: Solutions to the “Doctoral Glut Dilemma”

Don’t say ACS have their heads in the sand. A webinar this afternoon will face head-on the reality of training to be a doctoral-level chemist in today’s job market.  Is higher education producing more doctoral scientists than the market can absorb? With the attendance rates at graduate schools increasing, has the private sector’s growth been able to keep up and will there be enough options for tomorrow’s PhDs?   Join our two experts Richard Freeman and Paula Stephan as they share their viewpoints on the state of higher education, the economy and how industry and academia can better prepare current and future graduates. I’m not privy to any other advance information than what’s on the ACS Webinars™ website but others I’ve viewed have been top-quality. I obviously encourage viewing by current doctoral trainees in chemistry and postdocs. Giving yourself a competitive edge in this market is information anyone can use. But I particularly urge undergrads currently interviewing for chemistry doctoral programs to tune in. One of the four primary discussion topics will be assessing graduate programs for their ultimate employment record of their trainees. Take advantage of what your professional society is offering. Details: Doctoral Glut Dilemma: Are There Solutions? Date: Thursday November 8, 2012 (TODAY!) Time: 2:00-3:00 pm ET Fee: Free...

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