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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: Twitter: Dereklowe

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September 27, 2010

Charges in the TMS Diazomethane Case

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Posted by Derek

Readers may remember the case of Ronald Daigle, who died of exposure to TMS diazomethane a couple of years ago in Nova Scotia.

Sepracor, the company who owned the facility at the time, has now pleaded not guilty to five charges related to this accident. (Many more details at C&E News). This case appears (slowly) to be going to trial, so it'll be something to keep an eye on. . .

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Safety Warnings


1. partial agonist on September 27, 2010 12:28 PM writes...

wow.. what a horrible story.

The hoods were off? If people in supervisory roles knew that the hoods were off and demanded that he work in the lab anyway, then obviously there is huge liability.

If on the other hand he knew the hoods were off and decided (on his own) to work regardless, I am not sure to what extent the employer was at fault. That would be similar to me drinking a bottle of HMPA and my heirs suing, claiming that nobody did a good enough job convincing people in the lab that it isn't a good idea to drink toxic solvents.

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2. RB Woodweird on September 27, 2010 2:10 PM writes...

The story indicates that the incident took place on a Friday. I am sorry, but if you are the manager of a chemical lab where such things as TMS diazomethane are used in any quantity, you need to be standing outside the door of the lab anytime the hoods are down to make sure that no one is working inside with anything, even deionized water.

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3. gippgig on September 28, 2010 1:38 AM writes...

There is a design flaw in the human brain that causes people to ignore hazards, particularly about things they are familiar with, until harm actually results. (If you're at a college, wander over to the psychology department and ask them about this.) Safety people should get together with psychologists to figure out a way to overcome this.

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4. Anonymous on September 28, 2010 2:48 AM writes...

"There is a design flaw in the human brain that causes people to ignore hazards, particularly about things they are familiar with, until harm actually results"

It's sad but true. I've seen more than my share of this kind of behaviours.
But there's also a cultural/educational issue.
Every organic chemist in theory should be aware of the hazards of many tools of the trade. In the real life, many are not.

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5. Chemoptoplex on September 28, 2010 8:59 AM writes...

"There is a design flaw in the human brain that causes people to ignore hazards, particularly about things they are familiar with, until harm actually results."

I think its related to the glitch in our risk/reward processing that allows us to think that purchasing lottery tickets is a good investment. We can easily trick ourselves into ignoring probable outcomes if we have a strong enough emotional attachment to an unlikely one.

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6. Molecule on October 6, 2010 10:32 AM writes...

How much of it was he working with ? was this a 12L or larger reaction ?

If you work in industry for a while, you'll see that these things happen all the time, luckily not with the same outcome. I was forced to work with a dangerous sensitizing intermediate, even after I had suffered a reaction from it. The compounds had been around for many years, and it was known that chemists should wear full body suits etc., I was never advised to use such equipment and they denied any connection. They threatened me with my job if I didn't work with it. This was in a Canadian lab as well BTW, working for one of the big players too.

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7. InfMP on May 3, 2011 10:10 AM writes...

Sepracor loses

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8. Velva Sandland on January 9, 2013 7:43 AM writes...

Great site. A lot of useful information here. I'm sending it to a few buddies ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks to your effort!

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