UK chemistry graduate student poisoned by thallium, arsenic

Several UK news outlets this week reported that a Southampton University chemistry graduate student, reportedly a 25-year-old man, is hospitalized for poisoning by thallium and arsenic. “The 25-year old had been feeling ill for around three weeks and is now being treated at a specialist toxicology unit in Cardiff,” according to Chemistry World. The chemistry building had been closed since the evening of Sept. 12, but on Tuesday, Sept. 18, the university reopened all but “one level which is still part of the ongoing Police investigation,” a university spokesman told C&EN European Correspondent Sarah Everts in an e-mail.

Everts also passed along the full statement from the police:

Police investigate after PHD student at Southampton University falls ill after exposure to chemicals

Police in Southampton and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are jointly investigating after a 25-year-old Southampton University PHD chemistry student became ill around three weeks ago.

Tests have now established that the student had a quantity of the chemicals thallium and arsenic in their body.

It’s is not known at this stage how the chemicals entered the student’s body but as a precaution Southampton University has closed some of it’s research chemistry labs while investigations continue and police establish how the poisons got into the victim’s body.

Those that work in the relevant areas of the University will be given the opportunity for voluntary screening.

Police are working closely with the University, the Health Protection Agency and the HSE.

For the avoidance of doubt it has already been established this does not relate to any leak or airborne emission from the buildings and is not transmittable and may not be connected with the University at all.

The affected student is currently being treated at a specialist toxicology unit at a hospital in Cardiff.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service specialist HAZMAT officers are assisting with the investigation and are conducting tests within a property in Burgess Road.

This is being treated as an isolated incident and staff and students at the University and other members of the public are not believed to be at risk.

Detective Chief Inspector Pete McGowan said: “We are keeping an open mind on how the student has been exposed to the chemicals and are investigating all scenarios at the moment.

“We and the HSE are leading this enquiry and we have no reason to think that there is any risk to public health.”

University Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adam Wheeler, said:

“Our thoughts are with our student and their family at this difficult time for them and our student support staff are providing further assistance.

“The safety of our staff and students is of paramount importance to the University and we have proactively taken measures to ensure their health and well-being. At part of this we are co-operating and taking advice form the relevant authorities.”

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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1 Comment

  1. I’m going to have a hard time believing this was “accidental.”