Salmonella outbreak linked to laboratories
May10

Salmonella outbreak linked to laboratories

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has traced Salmonella Typhimurium infections to exposure in clinical and teaching laboratories, according to an April 28 report. The strain involved in the illnesses is one that is commercially available for use in microbiology labs. The outbreak identified by CDC involves 73 people from 35 states, with the biggest number (six) from Pennsylvania. Of those 73, 44 had contact with a microbiology laboratory in the week before they became ill. Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, and usually lasts 4-7 days. Notably, what happened in the lab didn't stay in the lab: "several children who live in households with a person who works or studies in a microbiology laboratory have become ill with the outbreak strain," the CDC report says. In some of those cases, Nature reports, the laboratory worker didn't get ill--he or she just passed it on to household members. One person died from the outbreak but CDC doesn't say who it was; 10 others were hospitalized. The CDC report contains some reminders of good microbiology lab practices. Change "bacteria" to "chemicals" and it's good advice for chemists, too: Be aware that bacteria used in microbiology laboratories can make you or others who live in your household sick, especially young children, even if they have never visited the laboratory. It is possible for bacteria to be brought into the home through contaminated lab coats, pens, notebooks and other items that are used in the microbiology laboratory. Persons working with infectious agents, including Salmonella bacteria, must be aware of potential hazards, and must be trained and proficient in biosafety practices and techniques required for handling such agents safely, including: Wash hands frequently while working in and immediately after leaving the microbiology laboratory and follow proper hand washing practices. This is especially important to do before preparing food or baby bottles, before eating and before contact with young children. Do not bring food, drinks or personal items like car keys, cell phones and mp3 players into the laboratory. These items may become contaminated if you touch them while working or if you place them on work surfaces. Do not bring pens, notebooks, and other items used inside of the microbiology laboratory into your home. Wear a lab coat or other protective uniform over personal clothing when working in a microbiology laboratory; leave it in the laboratory when you are finished. Remove protective clothing before leaving for non-laboratory areas (e.g., cafeteria, library, or administrative offices). Dispose of protective clothing appropriately or deposit it for laundering by the institution. Take it out of the laboratory only to clean it. If you work with...

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‘Prudent Practices’ is out, UCLA lab safety center established
Mar30

‘Prudent Practices’ is out, UCLA lab safety center established

I've got two safety-related stories out online today: 'Prudent Practices' Updated: The new edition of Prudent Practices in the Laboratory is out, at last! New Center Will Promote Lab Safety: UCLA has established a new UC Center for Laboratory Safety to study the effectiveness of things such as training and inspection programs. I think UCLA is up against two main challenges here: One is to identify metrics to measure effectiveness, especially retrospectively. The other is securing external funding--it's not like agencies are issuing requests for proposals in the area of lab safety research (to my knowledge, anyway). But the school deserves credit for trying, and I'll be interested to see how the center...

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Laboratory damage from Japan earthquake
Mar17

Laboratory damage from Japan earthquake

So what happens when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake strikes 80 miles away from your lab? And this is in a country with what are likely the most stringent earthquake codes in the world: Japan has gone much further than the United States in outfitting new buildings with advanced devices called base isolation pads and energy dissipation units to dampen the ground’s shaking during an earthquake. The isolation devices are essentially giant rubber-and-steel pads that are installed at the very bottom of the excavation for a building, which then simply sits on top of the pads. The dissipation units are built into a building’s structural skeleton. They are hydraulic cylinders that elongate and contract as the building sways, sapping the motion of energy. More photos from Tohoku University accompany today's C&EN news story: Japan Fights for its Rising...

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“A Highly Energetic Nitrogen-Rich Compound”
Mar09

“A Highly Energetic Nitrogen-Rich Compound”

Via TOC ROFL, I was amused and impressed by the TOC graphic of a paper out at Inorganic Chemistry today by Thomas M. Klapötke and Davin G. Piercey: 1,1′-Azobis(tetrazole): A Highly Energetic Nitrogen-Rich Compound with a N10 Chain From the paper: with our N10 compound 4, we experienced several inadvertent explosions during handling such as allowing the dry powder to slide down the inside of a Raman tube or slowing down the rotation rate of a rotary evaporator as 4 crystallized. The material demands the utmost care in handling, and the sensitivities were well below the measurable limit (<<5 N friction and <<1 J impact) of our safety characterization equipment; the material violently explodes when impacted with a 150 g hammer at 2 cm (0.03 J). It is among the most sensitive materials that we have handled. I've written about Klapötke's lab and his safety protocols before. When he says that a compound is among the more sensitive that he's handled, it is definitely not something that should be attempted by the average...

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Adding safety to grant applications
Dec08

Adding safety to grant applications

A guest post by Russ Phifer, a consultant with WC Environmental and past chair of the ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety. Russ attended the NRC's Safety Summit last month. At the National Research Council's recent Safety Summit, a representative of the Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board indicated that preliminary studies the board has completed on recent laboratory accidents identified four specific reasons for these accidents: 1. Individuals typically responsible for conducting laboratory safety inspections do not always have the authority to suspend laboratory activities if unsafe or inadequate practices are identified. 2. There is a lack of clear responsibility or tracking of the safety training for laboratory specific hazards. 3. There is a lack of understanding of how to analyze potential safety hazards in academic research—there is no formalized practice of conducting hazard assessments of research activities prior to beginning the research. 4. Grant funding does not always specifically include a safety component requirement. It is the last of these four I’d like to address. Specifically, should labs or institutions have to pass some sort of a national or international standard management process addressing safety? What organization would be the most qualified to develop such a standard? Is the idea even practical—are there such variances in the types and levels of research that safety would defy any effort at standardization? If I count correctly, that’s four questions, which is probably adequate for debating purposes. I believe it is practical to develop a standard, or rather several standards, to provide issuers of research grant money some direction when evaluating proposals. One standard should address the level of risk determination required to assure safety or laboratory workers when undertaking a laboratory procedure. While there are huge variances in the types of research being performed in university chemical laboratories, it’s logical that the use of some chemical classes and some specific laboratory equipment should require more assessment of risk. Likewise, procedures that represent minimal safety risk should require less time for risk evaluation. There is an ongoing effort by the ACS Committee on Chemical Safety to establish “chemical safety levels” for labs that could be very timely in terms of helping researchers and grant issuers agree on a realistic standard for research operations. As to which organization might be best suited to develop such a standard, it is not unrealistic to suggest that ACS could and should take a front seat. With thousands of chemists involved in both academic and industrial research, there is no organization anywhere that could match ACS in potential users of a lab risk standard. As for the question of whether safety evaluation by funding...

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CSB chairman speaks at ACS meeting
Aug24

CSB chairman speaks at ACS meeting

U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso spoke at the ACS National Meeting in Boston this afternoon, in the Presidential Event on Laboratory Safety. C&EN Senior Correspondent Cheryl Hogue attended the talk and tweeted from it. We weren't organized enough to get the live-tweeting thing set up a la The Haystack, so I've manually copied the tweets here for your reading pleasure: #Chemical explosions due to active (equipment or human) & latent (like lack of training) errors says #Chemsafety Board Chairman #Chemsafety Board Chairman recorded 1 academic lab fatality, 96 injuries, 97 evacuations since 2001 Injured grad student #TexasTech lab explosion wore no goggles, lab coat, blast/face shield says #Chemsafety Board chairman Latent errors, such as lack of training "pretty glaring" at US academic #chemistry labs says #Chemsafety board Chairman Universities in developing countries struggle to institute #chemsafety. US has problems too: #Chemsafety Board chairman OSHA needs to revisit decision to exempt student lab researchers from safety regulations: #Chemsafety Board chairman Did anyone attend the talk on the update to Prudent Practices in the...

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