Corante

About this Author
DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Emolecules
ChemSpider
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
PubChem
Not Voodoo
DailyMed
Druglib
Clinicaltrials.gov

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
Kilomentor
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
ChemBark
Realizations in Biostatistics
Chemjobber
Pharmalot
ChemSpider Blog
Pharmagossip
Med-Chemist
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
SimBioSys
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Business|Bytes|Genes|Molecules
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Depth-First
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa


Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
FuturePundit
Aetiology
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Sciencebase
Pharyngula
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net


Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
GruntDoc
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine


Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem


Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Instapundit
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus


Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« Proteins to the Rescue? | Main | How Bad Are the Cox-2 Inhibitors, Anyway? »

October 6, 2004

We Have Ways of Keeping You Safe

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

I was telling some people the other day about a summer undergraduate student that I once had assisting me. (As with many of those, perhaps the verb should have quotation marks around it.) At any rate, this fellow read all the labels on all the reagents, looking for hazards. He believed every word. He read the MSDS forms and everything it said in the catalog and the handbooks. In other words, he did just what many lab safety campaigns would like for everyone to do all the time. And, naturally enough, he ended up terrified of working with any actual chemicals.

Who could blame him? Look at his choice of reading material: the sea sand container in my lab says that I should wear suitable protective clothing before I dare to open it. I note that the protective garment in which I've faced most of the sea sand in my life is a bathing suit. The label on the sodium bicarbonate - y'know, baking soda - says to wash thoroughly after any skin contact and call a physician if I've been exposed. How about something a little more hazardous? The sodium chloride bottle says, among other things, "Do not ingest", and "Target Organs: Skin, Eyes, Stomach". It cautions me to keep the container in a cool, well-ventilated place and to call that physician again if I'm rash enough to come into contact with the stuff.

So you can imagine what the bottles of dichloromethane and ether say, much less the labels on things like cyanide, where you might at last want to start paying some real attention. But by now, who does? In the same way that the Iranian theocracy has raised the most irreligious generation that the mullahs have ever seen, the Safety Mullahs have bred indifference to all but the most strident warning labels. For an example of debased speech, look no further.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


COMMENTS

1. David on October 6, 2004 10:03 PM writes...

My personal favorites are the chemicals that state "toxic (US), highly toxic (Europe)" as if something terrible happens when you jump the big pond.

Permalink to Comment

2. Rob Sperry on October 7, 2004 3:47 AM writes...

We once had a very important experiment delayed because a container of helium with 1% argon got shiped without an msds form. The two PHD chemist who went to recieve it got told by the recieving cleric that it could not enter the building without the form. They were unable to reasure him that it would not react with anything.

Permalink to Comment

3. Mike on October 7, 2004 8:55 AM writes...

A container of sea sand in my lab actually contains the words "death may result."

Permalink to Comment

4. Drew on October 7, 2004 10:47 AM writes...


I recently learned that MSDS sheets are intentionally vague and unhelpful. Apparently, the Chemical Manufacturers Assoc. refused to implement them unless they could minimize their liabilities. The simplest way of doing this? Make everything toxic, with maximum warnings, so no matter what the outcome, the CMA could always say "see! we told you so!"

I find it staggering that the labeling on say, HMPA is not really different from MeOH. Strange games indeed....

Permalink to Comment

5. Katherine on October 7, 2004 2:04 PM writes...

It's exactly like the food safety people who warn of dire consequences if you leave meat on the countertop to thaw. If instead they said "There is a 2% chance of getting food poisoning from improperly refrigerated meat" they might get taken seriously.

Permalink to Comment

6. Dawn B. on October 7, 2004 2:09 PM writes...

Gotta love the warnings that go around for DHMO*. Scariest thing ever, I tell you. Clearly modeled after MSDS.

* DHMO = DiHydrogenMonOxide aka H20 aka Water.

Permalink to Comment

7. Dawn B. on October 7, 2004 2:10 PM writes...

Sorry for the double post.

Permalink to Comment

8. Daniel Newby on October 7, 2004 3:12 PM writes...

Many things actually are dangerous, under just the right circumstances. I once put too much sodium bicarbonate in my shoes and then got sweaty. Yeah, they were much fresher smelling, but much of the skin peeled off my feet a few days later. Practical warnings would be much better, but with the tort lawyers lurking in the shadows you have to cover everything.

What is hazardous polymerization, anyway? Oh my God, everybody run for it! The ethylene is turning into...PLASTIC!!! AUUGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

Permalink to Comment

9. charles p. on October 7, 2004 4:25 PM writes...

I always found it amusing that the MSDS for water tells you that if you come in contact with it, you should flush the affected area with plenty of water.

Permalink to Comment

10. Steven Den Beste on October 7, 2004 8:11 PM writes...

The Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division. Read it and weep (or giggle).

Permalink to Comment

11. Zach on October 11, 2004 6:09 PM writes...

DHMO.
Some people call it the universal solution.
I call it the universal problem.

Permalink to Comment


EMAIL THIS ENTRY TO A FRIEND

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):




RELATED ENTRIES
Scripps Update
What If Drug Patents Were Written Like Software Patents?
Stem Cells: The Center of "Right to Try"
Speaking of Polyphenols. . .
Dark Biology And Small Molecules
How Polyphenols Work, Perhaps?
More On Automated Medicinal Chemistry
Scripps Merging With USC?