With more students than ever, service dogs are becoming a fairly common site in labs. The lab teaching community including WSU is still trying to figure out what the best practices to help all students and animal helpers stay safe in lab. Check out this article from this months TheScientist on the subject.
An investigation after a lab explosion in March which injured one post-doc found 15 violations surrounding the use of a 50L hydrogen/oxygen gas mixture tank including improper grounding and led to $115,500 in fines. Along with technical issues the report emphasized a lack of efforts to enforce safety training, and supervisor’s understanding of their responsibility specifically with enforcement of a Principal Investigator reviewed Chemical Hygiene Plan (CHP). Earlier this month the fine was reduced to just over $69,000 with the university promising to enforce 38 pages of recommendations.
Over the last 20 years the EPA and other agencies have slowly realized that low quantities of biproducts in teflon are more toxic than anyone realized. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is the specific compound found to be highly carcinogenic. In 2002 the EPA put a cap on drinking water at 150 ppb, this has been continuously lowered until 2016 where they currently expect safe levels need to be lower than 70 ppt! Studies have show an expected 98% of Americans have ppb levels of the carcinogen in there body and ocean water is already reaching ppt levels along the coast. Like heavy metals (and teflon of course) the compound doesn’t break down and accumulates in the blood over time. As of 2017 DuPont has settled more than 3,500 personal injury lawsuits related to PFOA, but as there are limited alternatives to teflon in many applications it might be a global issue. You may consider this next time your looking at teflon-lined cookware.
If your interested in learning more about the lives of the Virginia people living close to the DuPont teflon production site you can check out the new documentary “The Devil We Know.”
Nanoparticles are an important area of relatively new research, and like many new technologies information and data on safety lags behind. Earlier this year NIOSH put out it’s recommendations about experimental and work design when using nanoparticle/nanomaterials, and C&EN was nice enough to gather the reports into one page.
As part of the Department’s evolving safety plan we’re launching out new Life Safety site. We’ll be talking about current topics on our campus and on the subject of safety in the science community. There will also be a department login page with more safety information including; proper procedures, guides, responsibilities, and forms. Keep an eye out for new information.