Jul 26, 2005

Safety in Labs

OK guys.. couldnt resist the temptation to write this soon.. so, here I go..

I love chemistry. I chose chemistry after my school because I love those colorful experiments. I remember doing 'exciting chemistry' at my home when I took some salts and sulfuric acid from my +2 lab all the way to Rameswaram and demonstrating in front of my folks by adding some acid and making all of us cough with some stupid gas generated. When I think of it now, I have mixed feelings. What a terrible mistake it is.. When I said my dad that I chose chem., he was quite worried for this reason.

The level of safety and hazard awareness in most Indian school is pathetic.. All of you guys would have done chemistry practicals at school and some at college too, right? Have any of you been instructed to enter the lab with safety goggles on? I seriously doubt whether even the best of the schools do that.. In my B.Sc. days, no goggles.. I heard that, even in reputed institutes like IIT's, in MSc chem. labs, no goggles!! Even in IISc, when I started my research, many labs across the chemistry departments never bothered about it.. How terrible.. Nobody needs to be taught about the importance of eyes.. in those young days, when one is playful and less responsible, accidents easily happen.. What if a drop of anything other than pure water falls into the eyes!!

I talked to my colleague here at UF and came to know that, even in their schools, they ought to wear goggles. I wasnt surprised at all.. All the profs in IITs spend a few years in the western countries and they are certainly aware of the safety issues. It is the responsibility of them and others to make sure that no one enters any chemical lab anywhere in the country without any protection. How much does a goggle cost? I am not talking about the high-end special plastic ones.. even those, which people buy from roadside shops while driving 2-wheelers, would suffice, to start with. How much does that cost - 20, 25 bucks? If a school or college orders it bulk, it would be cheaper and it would easily last for the 2 or 3 years the student spends.

Next thing that makes me boil each time I think about is how the laboratory wastes are handled and disposed.. I will write about it sometime later..


tt_giant said...

hmm.. to think of it now, there were quite a few incidents that happened in my school chemistry lab - breakages, accidental swallowing, eye exposure. GP, the attitude in indian labs and institutions is "waste of money" or "idhellam romba over.. do what you do properly.. why do you need safety equipments then?"..

in the lab i work here, safety is a very big issue. although i work with computers, i have to wear safety equipment whenever i enter a lab.

i agree with you. there must be strict laws enforcing these things. hmm.. *crazy idea*. try contacting anbumani ramadoss (there should be an email address somewhere) and mention this to him. after all, he is the guy in charge for these things right?..

and oh PS: if someone reads the above para mentioning "anbumani ramadoss" and went - "idhellam over....", we would still be the same..

GP said...

Yeah Deepak.. I have seen so many minor accidents happening around me too in my school lab..

Unless something fatal happens, the government will do nothing.. This is something they can do, since it comes under their control.. (and even make money by getting all the goggles contract)..

Anbumani Ramadoss is health minister, right? Even if he comes to know of this, he would say "talk to education minister".. God knows what he/she would say..

keerthi said...

GP. eppadi kandupudichen paartheengala !

I used to hate chemistry, but now i dont even think of it. i used to score bad at chemistry (other subjects were no good too)..

i only had the incident of dropping my gold ring into mercury..and it turned silver in color.. that scared the **** out of me. then my master did something with sulphuric acid, and it turned back.. he then said, come to chemistry lab, after removing all the rings in your hands.. from that time, i never went to chemistry lab. :) (except for the final practical)

GP said...

Keerthi.. neengala adhu? Unga pazhaiya foto-vukkum pudhu foto-vukkum niraiya vithyasam..

I was about to use the (mis)use of mercury in schools and colleges in India.. I still remember my class 7 teacher pouring mercury in her palm and walking around the class showing the students (of course she removed all the jewels from her hand). How dangerous!! Had she been elsewhere, she would have been fired!!

Many people dont know how bad mercury is.. Extremely toxic.. a drop of spilled mercury in a corner of a room will, over a period of exposure, make life hell..

Even in houses, people use thermometers.. If it breaks,.. horrible.. You can never collect mercury once it hits the ground and splashed into tiny droplets..

Nitin said...

i remember when i was a kid, i played wiht mercury that came out of a broken thermometer. just because it looked cool. then after a few years learning about them, i always remember that incident, i was lucky with mercury. Now, after reading ur comment, reminded me of that. just sharing.

GP said...

yeah, Nitin.. The awareness level is shockingly low in India, even though thermometers became household commodities and highly fragile and thus dangerous...

ada-paavi!!!! said...

i havent had enough experience inside a chem lab, or any lab for that matter, but i can imagine the state of things in india, no precautions will be taken,
and theyshould. u r talkin of a chem lab, but here even harzadous chemicals are manufactured and disposed off with utter disregard for saftey, the best example being shipbreaking in alang (gujrat)where workers handle asbestos without any form of safety gear, they dont even wera gloves.
maybe its the indian mentality to disregard safety, how many motorists wear a helmet?

Adaengappa !! said...

Well said sir..Regarding the disposal of waste items,our country is yet to follow any international safety regulations.
Even,the disposal of surgical equips,i wonder how they get recycled(i shd say rewashed) and put to use again.
OSHA,WHO standards shd be strictly enforced.Inge naan patient contacts irukum pothu,all possible safety gears podanum..India-la,enakku therinchu periya corporate hospitals la kooda safely rules enforce panrathu illa.........ellam "chalta hain attitude"....

Btw, My bro is an radiation oncologist and avar sollum experiences paartha ,innum namma oorula safety standards vara neraiya kaalam aagum.

GP said...

Vatsan, wearing safety in roads is an option.. but wearing suitable protection wear in labs and during dangerous works is a must..

Yeah Prabhu... sooner the government takes against the violators and passes strict rules, better.. I would write an article on the state of the waste management soon.. that is a much more serious issue.. compared to the individual safety in the labs, collective safety with waste disposal is much more important.

Gopal Krishna said...

i liked ur blog and ur comments.
may i invite u to join the campaign to get asbestos banned India?


Anonymous said...

i liked ur blog and ur comments.
may i invite u to join the campaign to get asbestos banned in India?


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