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Missing: Personal Protective Equipment

November 17, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 46

I was disappointed by the lengthy chemical safety letter from T. Andrew Taton and Walter E. Partlo on the azidotrimethylsilane explosion in Taton’s lab (C&EN, Oct. 27, page 2). Lacking was the admission that Partlo, a fifth-year graduate student, was not wearing any personal protection at the time of the incident.

Their concluding recommendations also omit any mention of having used personal protective equipment. Where is the recommendation for the use of a blast shield?

A blast shield provides an additional layer of protection for the researcher when the hood is opened, especially in cases where the hood is not the vertical multi-sliding-door type but the full horizontal sash type. (See the University of Illinois webpage at

I have never forgotten a coworker’s serious injuries in a Yale University chemistry lab in the 1970s during the distillation of a mere 25 mL of a known hazardous compound.

Why do our academic labs still not take basic precautions when working with such hazards? Why isn’t personal protection the basic standard at all times in our chemistry research labs?

I reference C&EN’s The Safety Zone blog: “He stopped and reached into the hood, but he didn’t have time to touch anything before the experiment exploded, says Anna Sitek, a research safety specialist in UMN’s department of environmental health and safety. Partlo wasn’t wearing any personal protective equipment.”

Katherine E. Flynn
St. Charles, Ill.



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