ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences



Skin Protection

The skin consist of cells and tissues made of proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. When hazardous chemicals touch your skin, they may react with these tissues, or be absorbed into one or more layer of the skin. The result could be irritation and rashes, chemical burns, and possibly permanent damage. When absorbed, some hazardous chemicals can enter the bloodstream and collect in and damage organs like the nerves, liver, and kidneys. And some chemicals can harm the red blood cells and other cells of the blood. A condition in which the one becomes allergic to chemicals can also result from overexposure by absorption. Therefore, wearing gloves and other skin protection is important while handling hazardous chemicals in the laboratory.

Before using a hazardous chemical, select a glove that is resistant to that particular chemical.

It is worth noting that aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons will attack all types of natural and synthetic glove material. Should swelling occur, the user should change to fresh gloves and allow the swollen gloves to dry and return to normal. If using one of these solvents, then whenever you leave the lab, remove the gloves to allow any absorbed solvent to escape. All gloves wear out after a period of time. Dispose of questionable gloves rather than risk injury.

Before using gloves, check for rips, pinholes and defects by air inflation. However, avoid blowing into gloves with your mouth. If available use air lines. After working with toxic materials, rinse the gloves before taking them off. While removing gloves, be careful not to contaminate yourself. Used, decontaminated gloves should be disposed of immediately in the trash.

Another form of skin protection is the laboratory coat. Most lab coats are made of material that resist water and other liquids to some degree. The lab coats can protect your clothing from getting small holes caused by droplet of corrosive liquids. Rubber aprons are preferred where a corrosive liquid is used.

A common problem in educational science laboratories is the wearing of open shoes like sandals or thongs. Feet should be covered completely to protect them from chemicals and broken glass. And under no circumstances should a person enter a laboratory bare-footed.


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