I'm a formulation chemist. My co-worker, is also a formulation scientist but has no previous formal training in chemical safety or lab chemistry settings.

I always work in the hood unless I’m just mixing fruit extracts or something non-volatile. My coworker doesn't ever work in the hood as they believe that since this goes in food it must be safe. The lab is small and our work stations are pretty close. My coworker opens up reagent bottles and performs all other tasks on the bench top.

I don't think their reasoning is correct since in food items, the chemicals we work with are present in the ppm to ppb ranges whereas when a pure bottle of them is opened on a lab bench, they are in high concentrations. In addition we face prolonged exposure ($8$ hr work days,$5$ days a week). The two scenarios are very different.

Also, I feel like I’ve had a sore throat ever since I’ve started working there.

I just don’t think these are prudent lab practices. Am I overreacting or does my coworker need to start working in the hood?

  • 18
    $\begingroup$ The lab should be shut down if there is no exhaust and your colleague and the higher up management do need to go through proper training. $\endgroup$ – M. Farooq Sep 8 '20 at 3:07
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Your coworker, like every chemist. absolutely must learn and remember the classic words of Paracelsus: “All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities. It is only the dose which makes a thing poison.” $\endgroup$ – telcoM Sep 9 '20 at 11:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "My coworker doesn't ever work in the hood as she believes that since this goes in food it must be safe." By that logic she would also have no problem with ingesting pure sodium and inhaling pure chlorine. After all, they are the ingredients for table salt, so they must be safe. Are you sure she has a chemistry education? $\endgroup$ – Philipp Sep 9 '20 at 13:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Philipp she doesn’t. Studied nutrition in college $\endgroup$ – dval98 Sep 9 '20 at 13:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Or acetic acid aka vinegar. Can't you use that as an example for her? $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Sep 9 '20 at 13:29

This is more a comment than an answer, but too long for the former....

There are two things for you (and your company) to consider:

  1. The SDS of the chemicals being handled - that will give you guidance for how best to handle a chemical. Flavouring chemicals like benzaldehyde, cinnamaldehyde, limonene all have irritation warnings, and need to be handled in well ventilated areas; others like diacetyl and allyl hexanoate are straight up nasty. And I don't mean to be patronising with this list of flavouring chemicals 101. I'm sure your list of chemicals is extensive, but they will all have SDS that will dictate how you should be handling them. Use that to base your arguments for change, not the opinions of an online discussion group.
  2. Relevant building codes for laboratories that will specify the required number of air turnovers per hour. If your workplace is old, there is a good chance that ventilation is not quite what it should be. This is not an easy (cheap) problem to solve, but if the company is aware of any potential problems it will be easier to improve workplace practices of working in fumehoods.
  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – andselisk Sep 22 '20 at 19:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.