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February 8, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 6


Letters to the editor

Chemical safety

Chemical safety is not a new topic. Yet industry and academics continue to ignore the professional training and constant monitoring that needs to be done to protect employees and students. The C&EN articles (Jan. 7, pages 17–23 and 39) remind me of my past 36 years in industry, where chemical safety was always an afterthought. Safety training and inspections became important only after near misses or accidents, had to be low cost, and were temporary.

Working in the laboratory since high school and in industrial and manufacturing plant laboratories during my professional career, I have witnessed and learned of too many chemical and manufacturing accidents. Honestly, it is important to learn about both, as chemists almost always end up in manufacturing situations during their careers. Accidents occur because people think nothing will happen, they have little or no training, and what training they have is not reinforced. Many hurt employees were bystanders of someone else’s mistake (like driving). Everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings at all times.

The attitude toward safety is appalling, as everyone is angry when safety inspections occur, as they see it as more work to correct findings and a waste of time. Do I really have to go to another safety meeting or take turns to do safety inspections? Do I really have to store this chemical somewhere else? The excuses never end. I suspect some companies and academic institutions are better than others, but the importance of safety is always underestimated. The C&EN article segment (page 39) on environmental and disaster safety reinforces the underestimations that chemical industry makes every day, and the general public suffers from these mistakes.

Personally and fortunately I had two very safety-conscious professors in undergraduate and graduate school, setting the foundation for my accident-free career. Even so, there were three major accidents at graduate school, a few in undergraduate school, and too many to count in industry. I recommend that a formal one-semester chemical safety course be required for all chemistry and engineering majors. Many engineers on my industrial problem-solving teams did not remember any chemistry and were involved in most of the chemical accidents and near misses. The hollow mantra of executives was always that employees are our best asset and safety is high priority. But nothing gets done without proper funding, constant reinforcement, and leadership. Attitude is everything, and you have to take action to be safe.

David Wynn
Menasha, Wisconsin

From the web

Perrin-Jablonski diagram

C&EN posted about #FluorescenceFriday on Jan. 25:

A photo of a forearm with a tattoo of the Perrin-Jablonski diagram.
Credit: João Victor Silva Néto

#FluorescenceFriday inked! Undergrad student João Victor Silva Néto ( of @photochemistryufrj is so inspired by the pioneering photophysical research of Jablonski—and of course by the famous Jablonski diagram, which is useful for understanding fluorescence—that he wears it proudly on his arm.

cenmag via Instagram

Here’s one reader’s response: @photochemistryufrj @cenmag would love to see this referred as the Perrin-Jablonski diagram instead of just Jablonski diagram. Perrin was the FIRST scientist to make use of such diagrams, it was of course Aleksander Jablonski who popularized it & elaborated it. I came across this lil’ eye opener in David Jameson’s - Introduction to Fluorescence

chemaddict13 via Instagram



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