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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Scientist Burned Handling Chemicals; Review Safety Procedures  

A few days ago, a research scientist at Berkeley Lab reached to place a bottle of phenol and chloroform solution in a chemical storage cabinet.   The container cap was loose, and some of the solution spilled onto his forearm, above his glove.   He immediately rinsed the skin with water for ten minutes. Later he sought medical treatment in a local emergency room and was then transferred for observation to a regional burn center.   The root cause(s) of this incident are being analyzed at this time.  

Phenol, a highly toxic and corrosive chemical, is commonly used in laboratories for DNA extraction.   If you have phenol solutions in your lab, please review the hazard information for this chemical, personal protective equipment requirements, and emergency response procedures.   Material safety data sheets for this solution, and all Lab chemicals, are available through the Lab's website, A to Z index.

Staff working with or near phenol solutions should be trained in the proper skin decontamination procedures. The recommended decontamination agent for skin contact is isopropyl alcohol or polyethylene glycol (PEG 300 or PEG 400).   It is highly recommended that isopropyl alcohol or PEG be readily available in the laboratory for skin decontamination where phenol is used.   It is also important that you visit Health Services for evaluation if you have a skin exposure to phenol or to either decontamination agent.   For additional information, contact Health Services or the Industrial Hygiene group.


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