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Gloves Are Safety Equipment

March 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 12

While reading the cover story "Timely Transformation," I noticed several photographs showing chemists working in pharmaceutical laboratories without wearing gloves (C&EN, Dec. 7, 2009, page 13).

Although safety glasses and lab coats were being used, the lack of gloves surprised me, especially considering that human health should be the main focus of pharmaceutical companies. Regardless of how carefully one works in the lab, it is still possible that contact with a chemical may occur through an unforeseen event such as glassware breakage or by contact with equipment surfaces that contain toxic residues left behind from previous work. In such cases, a relatively inexpensive pair of disposable gloves can provide an important second line of defense to prevent contact with a potentially toxic chemical.

Even if a new experimental drug compound has been shown to be safe based on preliminary toxicity testing, it is nevertheless possible that more subtle toxicity may become apparent after years of chronic exposure. For this reason, I think it behooves all chemists to wear gloves in the laboratory. And the more experienced chemists in the lab should encourage less experienced workers to protect themselves accordingly. I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years, and I am grateful that my employers have always provided disposable gloves for all lab workers, as well as training in their proper use.

Eric Loeser
Suffern, N.Y.


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