That is one of the most pyrophoric substances known. I used it once. It instantly catches fire if it sees the atmosphere.
Whoever the adviser is should be fired (no pun intended). No 23 year old should be using t-butyl-Li. Even if they are a grad student, they still have nowhere near enough lab experience to be handling t-Butyl-li. You have to make sure all your glassware is flushed with nitrogen and completely dry . You also have to use cannulas for everything.
I have read about the accident earlier. From what I remember she made several mistakes :(
SOme of the comments hit the nail on the head
Apparently her lab experience was 3 years of doing peptide chemistry as an undergrad. Whoever was in charge should immediately be fired for being an idiot. A 23 year old who has only been doing peptide chemistry should NOT be handling t-butyl li by themselves.
The fact that she was using a syringe and not a cannula for t-butyl-Li is more than enough proof that she had no idea what she was doing.
This reminds me of the chemistry professor who died 12 years ago because she did not realize how dangerous the chemical she was studying, dimethylmercury, is:
Thats such a shame.
A detailed account of this incident was sent out to almost everyone here at my lab since the Dept. of Energy tries to keep tab on safety issues.
It highlights the fact that safety concerns and safety training aren't usually well-addressed in college laboratories. Most students learn about how to do things via learning from more senior students, or from their supervisors. This is assuming these people know how to do things properly in the first place.
Many of us here at various US Nat'l Labs often grumble about the safety classes that we all have to take before we can start performing out work. Many of them require regular retraining after 2 or 3 years. Still, personally, I can appreciate them because at least I know what is the proper way of doing things and know when my personal safety concerns should be addressed. Identifying potential hazards is one of the most important aspects of working safely. If you are aware that something is potentially dangerous, you'll stop and figure out what you can and cannot do. Unfortunately, the ability to identify potential hazards is one of the most lacking aspects when there's no proper safety training.
I went to school with her...she was a friend of mine.
This was so devastating.
Such an unfortunate incident and so preventable. I spent 30 years in safety in the trucking industry with a lot of time devoted to Hazardous Material Emergency Response. I have had experience with several college and university chemistry labs and most of them come up short on the safety end.
Remember that all the OSHA Regulations were not written because someone might get injured, they were written because many already have.
Before working with any chemical Please, Please, Please get the Material Safety Data Sheet and read it.
In the next 3 months I should manipulate mercury. According to some of my friends that already passed the course (physics 2) they worked on it without any glove. Some of them had made a lot of mercury felt on the table and it went on their papers and pencils. I wonder if it is common in a US lab (I'm in Argentina). I'm a bit scared about this but as I'm aware of mercury's toxicity I'll try my best in term of cautiousness.
This is unfortunately the flip side of OSHA/HSE.
Because they have a duty to protect workers/public they have to over emphasize some dangers, so you get a massive over-reaction to a dropped mercury thermometer.
The result is that many technical people start to assume that all their warnings are silly bureaucratic overreactions and so a lot of sensible warnings get ignored. Similarly none technical people just get the message that chemical = dangerous.
Mercury is toxic, and is dangerous when absorbed into the body. This generally takes a long time exposure to the substance and particularly the vapor.
Yes it would make sense to wear gloves, and you do not want to heat it up - but as the metal it is less dangerous than a lot of things you handle every day that you don't even think of as chemicals.
http://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/96252.htm here is a link to the MSDS Sheet for Mercury. It is absorbable throught the skin in harmful amounts among other things. Please wear at least a rubber apron, rubber gloves and some sort of respiratory protection when working with it.
I have been working with mercury and with people that were working with mercury for many years. Don't worry too much. Probably the most important thing is good ventillation. I have never seen any problems arising from the occasional skin contact. Doesn't mean they are impossible and I am far from ignoring dangers, but don't overrate them either.
Well thanks to you all. When I was young - about 5 years old - I saw my little sister crunching a mercury thermometer in her mouth. She went to hospital and I remember my mother told me she had some mercury in her stomach. I don't remember much else but I've been introduced to it when I was young. Since then I've broken one mercury thermometer (about 1.5 year ago) so I'm not that scared about mercury but I must say I was somewhat worried about what will come next for me (skin contact can be avoided while vapor is much harder to avoid especially since I've read it's quite volatile).
The problem with most people is that if they do something risky and it don't blow up and kill them the first time, they assume the behavior is safe and they will repeat the behavior until they have adverse results.
Mercury can be absorbed through intact skin. It is poisonous. Exposure has serious chronic effects that may not be manifested until years later.
When dealing with chemicals on a daily basis we tend to become complacent. Unfortunately complacency can injure or kill.
If you must error, error on the side of caution, the life you save may be your own.
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