Dangers of Bouin's
Judith A. Fournier
110275.1004 at compuserve.com
Thu Mar 30 16:59:26 EST 2000
Leslie and Jack are correct about some aspects of Bouin's solution
hazards. A few years ago, a colleague was sorting through some Bouin's
preserved whale organs and noticed a yellow crystal growing on some jar
lids that had mostly dried up. Having just attended a Monona Rossol
seminar on hazardous lab products, he contacted me as his Health &
Safety Committee Rep. I bounced it to the Museum Safety Officer who did
some research. The upshot was that the army explosives disposal team
was called in to clean up (ie: clear out) Bouin-preserved specimens from 3
different buildings, plus any Bouin's solutions remaining in the labs and
storage rooms. There was a big meeting between army, 2 police forces,
the museum safety officer, collection manager, me, and several other staff.
The officer in charge of the army unit was actually talking about a "long
walk" to bring an overaged sample out of one building.
They eventually burned more than 3000 lots of whale tissue and a couple
hundred lots of other specimens.
Part of the problem was our inability to locate a Material Safety Data Sheet
about it (generic home-made solutions). After the destruction, I was able to
obtain several MSDS sheets from Fisher Scientific, Baker's, and Canada
Wide Scientific. Two described the solutions as toxic, flammable,
explosive, etc.... based on the characteristics of the components. The
third described it as not particularly toxic, non-flammable, no danger of
explosion. On requesting further information, I learned that, due to the
pressure of producing so many MSDS's in a short time, their chemists had
been making "reasoned guesses" from the ingredients, trying to err on the
side of safety. No one had made any tests of the solutions in question.
Okay, so THEORETICALLY, it could cause an explosion if there is a build-
up of picric acid crystals between the lip of container and the cover and a
static charge got in to set them off ("you could maybe lose a finger" --
explosive sergeant). Said crystals are easily and safely removed under
running water. Samples in Bouin's should be stored under fluid in a larger
container. And all samples, regardless of preservative, should be handled
under a properly set-up fumehood or fume extractor system.
Judy Fournier, Canadian Museum of Nature (retired).
<110275.1004 at compuserve.com>
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