What Is the Most Common Chemistry Lab Injury?

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The most common chemistry lab injury has to do with broken glass. Find out more about the most common chemistry lab injury with help from an experienced chemistry professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Chemistry & Biology Concepts
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Robin Higgins, and this is "what is the most common chemistry lab injury?" Alright, well, I don't think there's an official list anywhere, but I think I can tell you what my own experiences have been, and what, in general, seems to be happening in labs. So, first, I'd say, any type of cut, or glass injury, especially in organic labs. You're dealing with lots of glassware. Every reaction you do is probably run in some kind of flask that's made of glass, and, inevitably, that glass is going to break. Sometimes, you'll have a tray of tubes that will fall over, and they'll all smash on the floor, and you'll have to clean them up. Little shards of glass will get through your gloves, and they'll cut you. Or, if you're trying to undo a completely stopped in stopper and you end up smashing it a little bit too hard, and it breaks all over the place, you're holding that glass. So, that's the most common, is probably cuts from glass. Second is gonna be burns from acid, which sounds more exciting than it is. Basically, if you're using acid, it's common to have one or two drops kind of fly away and hit you somewhere where your skin is exposed. So, kinda, you know, when they're in the lab, they're gonna have a lab coat, and gloves on, and goggles on, so, they're pretty well covered, but there's gonna be a few vulnerable places. One of them is right on your wrist, in between where your lab coat ends and your glove starts. And, so, if you're using a pipette, I've done this a bunch of times, and you squeeze all of what you need, out, maybe you just squeeze a little bit too hard, and one of the drops ricochets and hits you somewhere. Now, usually, this stings a lot, but it's not a super terrible injury. There is this chemistry urban legend, which I'm pretty sure never happened, but I've heard the story go around, where someone was carrying a two liter bottle of very intense acid, and they dropped it and so it made a pool of acid on the floor around them, and, even though it was only two liters, they couldn't escape because this acid was burning their legs, and eventually, all of them, to death. So, you know, there's, you can kind of go, how, as however horrific as you wanna get, but I've never actually heard of that happening to anyone. And, the third, most rare, but still kind of common chemistry injury, just gonna be any type of chemical exposure. You know, most people work in a fume hood, which means that you have a really large ventilation system, but, every once and a while, you're gonna be carrying something. You're gonna forget it's top, you're gonna stick your head through the fume hood and forget, and you're gonna smell something really terrible. And, if you're very unlucky, or very not careful, you could be really hurt by whatever you smell. So, there's smelly things as chemical exposure, and there's also spilling something. So, not just like one drop, but, if you end up spilling a chunk of a bottle on yourself, and you need to go to some kind of emergency shower station. And, then again, you can get stuff in your eye. Some people, after a bunch of years of grad school, they get lazy and they have a bad attitude, they don't wanna wear goggles, they'll just do whatever they want to, but then they'll get something in their eye and have to go to the eyewash station, and it's pretty nasty. So, yeah, there's a lot of terrible, you know, awful, horrific things that could happen to you in a chemistry lab, but, by in large, it's pretty, it's a pretty safe place, if you're being careful. I'm Robin Higgins, and this is "common chemistry lab injuries."


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