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Scars from a lab explosion

I’m finishing up a cover story for C&EN, so in lieu of a round-up today I’m just going to point to a post by Corrie Kuniyoshi on the Chemistry Grad Student & Postdoc Blog. Kuniyoshi got her PhD from UCLA in 2005 and now works for ACS on education programs:

Lab Tales: How A Chemistry Lab Experiment/Explosion Changed My Life

Whenever I see the name t-butyl lithium it makes me feel a little nauseous. It isn’t just because of how the mention of this chemical has been circulated in the media lately (Google t-butyl lithium in the news), and it isn’t just because as an organic chemists I know about the potential dangers of this extremely pyrophoric base. It is rather because I have several inches of permanent scar tissue on my arm and a smaller scar on my face to remind me how chemical burns can have a lasting impact.

Other than my dissertation, my most prized possession that I took from the lab is an old pair of safety goggles I wore that night. It has a big white splotch where there was back-splash from the explosion just over the lens that was protecting my right eye.

(h/t Chemjobber)


  • Sep 30th 201220:09
    by Chad

    I too bear scars from a laboratory accident. In my case, the accident occured because I scaled up a reaction where epichlorohydrin was one of the primary reactants, without understanding that simple nitrile laboratory gloves are insufficient for use with this compound. Though I did not observe any exposure at the time, that evening at home my hands began to ache and by morning I had blisters over most of my fingers, and on a spot on my wrist just above where the gloves ended. These were treated as second degree burns. Though they healed after a month or so, I permanantly lack pigmentation in the burned areas.

    Moral of the story: check glove compatibility before working with any new compounds

  • Oct 2nd 201208:10
    by dsasadsd

    I have a small scar on each hand from when I put the lid on a cracked NMR tube. The tube fractured almost lengthwise giving a glass shard in each hand, which each of my hands proceeded to drive into the opposing hand.

    after doing experimental chemistry for the last 15 years, 99% of my accidents (where there was actually an injury) have been stabbing myself with glass or needles.

  • Oct 2nd 201210:10
    by qvxb

    In his book, The Periodic Table, Primo Levi discussed the mark of the chemist, a scar from accidentally sticking glass tubing into the hand while assembling apparatus using corks or rubber stoppers. Martyn Poliakoff has a video about it.

  • Oct 3rd 201205:10
    by Cliff

    I have chemically and thermally burnt twice with scars to prove it from bromoacetic acid and tert-butylcatechol after lab suppliers put both these low melting solids in standard lab bottles. The fused masses had to be warmed up to get the stuff out.

  • Oct 3rd 201206:10
    by dsasadsd

    that dude needs a haircut

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