A Guest Post today from chubscrubbins.
First, my background. I am not a Chemist. I was hired as a “chemical safety specialist” to basically administer lab inspections and run the stockroom. My previous military experience as a Nuke helped me greatly when it came to getting my job. My position evolved to Chemical Hygiene Officer for the College of Science and Engineering, then to Radiation Safety Officer for the University, and eventually to a Environmental Compliance Auditor for EPA Region 6 private schools.
- My Scariest Moment
When a package came into the stockroom, I checked the DOT labels to determine how to open the container. It was too cumbersome to open everything in the hood, so if it had no labels I just opened it on the receiving table. On a particular day, like any other, a single package came in. No labels. I put on my nitrile gloves and opened the container. I removed a small bottle nestled in Styrofoam and immediately noticed that my glove was drenched. Annoying. It happens. I look at the bottle and I immediately lose my shit. The first word I see is Dimethylmercury. I had taken lab safety classes and was aware of the tragic death of Karen Wetterhahn. My mind was racing. My wife was pregnant and hadn’t finished grad school. What if I died and wasn’t there to raise my child? Awful thoughts ran through my head.
I took off my gloves and placed them into a secured waste container. I calmed down and walked to our most experienced Organic professor and told him what was happened. His jaw dropped and he muttered, “Fuck.” We walked to the stockroom and I showed him the container. I saw relief in his face, which then turned to anger. The substance was a standard used by the biology department for a mercury analysis machine used to determine Hg concentration in fish. I believe it was either a 1ppm or 1ppb standard. I really can’t remember. I thought he was pissed at me for overreacting, but he was really mad at the professor who ordered it. Never understood why. Either way, I left work early to be with my pregnant wife and wind down.
- Most Embarrassing / Saddest Thing I Witnessed.
I was actually taking Organic Chemistry Lab to improve my practical chemical knowledge. We were performing an extraction using dichloromethane. Nothing fancy. There was a real dunce in the class who had horrible lab technique. It was obvious from the first lab. The dunce went to pour his organic layer back into his sep funnel, but forgot to close the stopcock. In addition, he was doing this outside of the hood with the glassware aimed right at his crotch. After drenching his genitals with dichloromethane, he stood at his hood, too embarrassed to move. I heard him go up to the TA and say, “I think I messed up.” By this point, his penis had started itching and burning and he was really worried. I brought him down to the stockroom and had him strip down to his boxers while he stood underneath the safety shower. I made him stand there for the whole recommended 15 minutes. Sadly, the professor in charge of the lab heard about the accident and came in and bitched him out as he was standing there in his boxers. I felt awful for the kid. He dropped the class the next day and switched majors. I don’t think he was cut out to be a chemist, but I still felt awful for how he found out.