ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Polymethyl methacrylate.
White powder or clear crystals shaped by heating.
Once polymerised, perspex is not hazardous to handle except that sharp edges can be produced by sawing which will cause skin abrasions if rubbed against an unprotected skin surface. Perspex is dangerous when it becomes a fine dust through sanding or filing or when it becomes loose beads through filing or drilling. Inhaling the fine dust will cause damage to lungs with granulomas developing around the dust particles. Wearing a surgical mask whilst performing the above tasks will eliminate the danger. Loose beads of perspex on a hard floor make the surface extremely slippery. Loose beads of perspex can become attached to shoes transposing the problem from one area to another. Using a vacuum evacuation system alongside the area where perspex is cut and sanded can eliminate this problem. Perspex cements use a solvent which is both highly flammable and highly toxic. Continuous breathing of small quantities of vapours may have a cumulative effect and cause serious illness. The area used for cementing must be well ventilated and have an air extraction system. There should be some extraction at floor level as the vapours are heavier than air.
Always wear protective clothing when working with perspex which should include a long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask.


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