A laboratory can be a very dangerous place, but with the daily pressures to get things done, employees can be tempted to take shortcuts and ignore safety precautions. With the increasing complexity of the equipment and procedures involved in experiments, employees need an even greater knowledge of safety practices that they may have had in the past. Our Laboratory Safety Series shows both new employees and seasoned veterans the importance of safety in the laboratory. The programs review OSHA regulations, cover the use of specific equipment, and stress the importance of using good safety practices. The 12 programs in the series include, orientation to lab safety, electrical safety in the lab, preventing contamination in the lab, planning for laboratory emergencies and many more!
"Accidents" Created in the lab - There went our best chance:
- In the ninth century, a team of Chinese alchemists trying to synthesize an "elixir of immortality" from saltpeter, sulfur, realgar, and dried honey instead invented gunpowder.
- German scientist Hennig Brand stored 50 buckets of urine in his cellar for months in 1675, hoping that it would turn into gold. Instead, an obscure mix of alchemy and chemistry yielded a waxy, glowing goo that spontaneously burst into flame—the element now known as phosphorus. Soldiers supplied the raw material in vast, sloshing quantities until the 1750s, when Swedish chemist Carl Scheele developed an industrial method of producing phosphorus. He discovered eight other elements, including chlorine, oxygen, and nitrogen, and compounds like ammonia, glycerin, and prussic acid. Scheele was found dead in his lab at age 43, perhaps owing to his propensity for tasting his own toxic chemicals.
- Kevlar, superglue, cellophane, Post-it notes, photographs, and the phonograph: They all emerged from laboratory blunders.
- In 1938 DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett who opened a dud canister of tetrafluoroethylene gas and discovered an amazing, nearly friction-free white powder. He named it Teflon.
- After a 1992 drug trial in the Welsh mining town of Merthyr Tydfil, male subjects reported that sildenafil citrate hadn't done much for their angina, but it did have an unusual side effect on another part of their anatomy. Today the drug is sold as Viagra.