Lesson learned: Eye protection
Jun04

Lesson learned: Eye protection

From the University of California, Berkeley, a lesson learned about wearing eye protection: A graduate student researcher was working at a laboratory bench synthesizing approximately one gram of diazonium perchlorate crystals. The student was transferring synthesized perchlorate using a metal spatula when the material exploded, sending porcelain fragments into his face. The fragments shattered the lenses of his eyeglasses and lacerated his left cornea. A researcher in an adjacent room assisted the student to the eyewash and called campus police. The student was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery on his eye, and treatment for several facial lacerations. He was released from the hospital that same evening. Read the report for more details. (h/t Chemjobber, who also posted about this and received a rather disheartening comment from a UC Berkeley graduate...

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Safely experimenting with actinides
Jun02

Safely experimenting with actinides

A few weeks ago, I wrote a C&EN Science Concentrate about a new californium complex with covalent bonds to its ligands rather than the ionic interactions traditionally expected for actinides. The work was led by Thomas E. Albrecht-Schmitt, a chemistry professor at Florida State University. His lab at FSU works with thorium, protactinium, uranium, neptunium, plutonium, americium, curium, californium, and—soon, for the first time–berkelium. His lab works with those elements safely by investing in protective equipment and meticulously planning experiments. Most of the actinides in Albrecht-Schmitt’s lab only present a concern if people inhale or ingest them, he says. It’s when they get to americium that they have to start thinking about radiation exposure. For americium, the concern is gamma emissions; for curium it’s spontaneous fission to release a neutron. And for californium, the only isotope available in experimental quantity is 249Cf, which releases high-energy gamma radiation. “To shield to background levels we need 2 inches of lead,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. Safety in his lab starts with shoes. “The most common way in which radioactive material leaves a lab is when someone unknowingly steps in a contaminated area and walks out,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. National labs tackle the problem by using foot covers, but his group members have dedicated lab shoes that they change into when they walk in and leave behind when they walk out. His lab also has glove boxes dedicated to transuranium chemistry. Unlike standard glove boxes, which run at positive pressure to protect the box contents from air, Albrecht-Schmitt’s has some that under negative pressure—sucking air in to prevent the spread of particulate matter. “The exhaust from the pumps and boxes is routed through a very sophisticated filter system,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. When doing lab work, Albrecht-Schmitt and his group members wear double gloves. They also use masking tape to tape the inner glove to their lab coats. That way they never have exposed skin, and if someone thinks their hands have been contaminated, they can remove the outer glove and still be protected. Working in a glove box adds a third layer to the hands. The lab has several radiation counters, including general ones to detect any kind of radiation and specific ones to check for alpha, beta, and gamma emissions. There’s also a special hand and foot monitor that people step on for a scan before leaving the lab. Lab coats get checked and replaced as needed. “Students who do low-level work may replace theirs once a year, but routine work with short-lived isotopes may mean replacing them 3-4 times a year,” Albrecht-Schmitt says. Used coats go into radioactive waste. And then there are the inspections....

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Lab coat versus concentrated acid
May19

Lab coat versus concentrated acid

Want a visual for why you should wear a lab coat? Check out Pictures from an Organic Chemistry Laboratory, where Kristof has a photo from a nitration that went awry, spilling concentrated sulfuric and nitric acid “everywhere.” It might even be an argument for adding an apron over a lab coat in some...

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Lab-safe, professional shoes for women
Jan29

Lab-safe, professional shoes for women

A query from chemistry reddit: Good lab shoes? I’m about to enter the corporate world but was having trouble finding women’s shoes both safe and professional. Do you know of any good brands or styles? I’d prefer low or no heel. Sanita or Dansko (closed-back) clogs are the main suggestions given. Anyone have other...

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A radiation dosimeter to go on your hands
Jan13

A radiation dosimeter to go on your hands

I’ve seen radiation badges before, but never a ring. Courtesy of the International Atomic Energy Agency‘s Facebook page: This type of ring is a small badge that workers wear under gloves to monitor external exposure to ‪#‎radiation‬ as they work with different types of radioactive sources. The little diamond shape on the ring is worn facing the palm, as this is the area where highest exposure usually occurs. This ring is just one of many different types of radiation exposure monitoring badges. Badges like these are designed to help protect workers, contributing to safe and secure radiological conditions in the workplace, including regulating and limiting how much radiation exposure a person gets over time as well as to make sure that they stay within certain thresholds. The ‪#‎IAEA‬ helps to support countries in implementing the use of these handy devices in...

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Gloves for handling pyrophoric reagents
Dec10

Gloves for handling pyrophoric reagents

For readers who handle pyrophoric reagents, how do you balance hand dexterity vs protection? I’ve heard either nitrile under Nomex (in the form of Blackhawk Aviator gloves) or Nomex under neoprene. Other suggestions?

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