I-125 BSA spill...help needed

David L. Haviland, Ph.D. dhavilan at IMM2.IMM.UTH.TMC.EDU
Fri May 2 16:51:32 EST 1997

At 21:14 5/1/97 GMT, ZOOMmmm wrote:

I'll step up to the plate on this and take a crack at it...  you won't like
the answer...

Fair warning:  within my institute, I am the "safety officer" and as such
have had to familiarize myself with protocols.  In addition, through my
travels, I have had to know and follow the protocols from my previous 4

>Hi.  I'm a graduate student who found out that another graduate student in
>our lab accidently squirted approximately 5 microliters of I-125 BSA for
>an ubiquitin assay (PAGE/autoradiography) on his arm.  I'm not sure, but I
>think he was using 1.0m Ci or less.  The problem is that it happened 2
>weeks ago.  Yesterday, i finally told the Health/Safety officer that grad.
>student spilled it and he didn't report it to anyone.  The Health/Safety
>officer told our thesis advisor and the thesis advisor got pissed at me
>and we had a yelling match.  The thesis advisor kinda threaten to kick me
>out of the lab for telling the Health/Safety officer about the spill.  The
>thesis advisor also said that the I-125 BSA is relatively safe to work out
>on the lab bench in the open lab where there are at least 6 students
>working.  He told me that the radioactivity is so low since I-125 is bound
>to BSA.

Both of you blew it big time...

The FIRST big mistake was not reporting it to your thesis advisor
IMMEDIATELY the very day it had happened.  The SECOND mistake was waiting.
To have waited any amount of time in reporting this incident was nothing
short of negligence.  Your thesis advisor ( or most senior researcher) is
the person to decide whether or not to call Health & Safety, not you.  The
only time where lab personnel would call the campus officer would be if the
PI has had or demonstrates a history of ignoring regulations - and in that
case, discipline and enforcement would be up to the collective faculty.

Like it or not, there is a "chain of command" in a lab and your are obliged
to follow it.  By not reporting it to your advisor (or the senior
investigator at hand), but to the Health and Safety officer,  and  delaying
when you informed someone signifies your (and your friend's) inability to
follow protocol - that makes you both insubordinate.

>Well, I am concerned about my safety and the others.  I don't want to work
>there if that grad student is still working with that I-125 BSA out in the
>open lab.  Next Wednesday, the whole lab will have to attend a
>Radioactivity Safety Seminar.

Good.  It sounds like it is needed and both of you need  to review the
proper handling and shielding required for 125-I.

THE main problem in using 125-I is being exposed to free Na-I.  This should
only be done in a hood certified for such use. You should know before doing
any experiments what the target organ is for idodine (you can look it up).

>I would like to get advice from anyone on the Net so I can ask the
>Radioactivity Safety Officer as many questions as possible.  For those of
>you who know much about I-125, please post any advice on the newsgroup. 
>If the thesis advisor does kick me out, I want to bring up charges if
>necessary.  Thank you.

If handled properly, 125-I is safe.  Its radiation is penetrating, and
lead is the preferred shielding medium.   Your advisor is correct: if
properly removed from free 125-I, the idoinated BSA prep would be
"relatively" safe to use on the bench in small trace amounts, presuming YOU
were taking appropriate precautions (no eating, drinking, wearing a LAB
COAT, and gloves are ALWAYS used).  Knowing the method of iodination, you
should know your iodinating efficiency so that you would have some idea as
to how much of that 1.0 mCi is bound - you should the specific activity of
your reagent before you start an experiement...

Some modicum of common sense is required for handling of isotopes.  Your
note "rings" of a complete lack of knowledge, or care, with regard to the
use of isotopes.  

You probably don't need to be terminated from the lab, but a probationary
period is definately in order.  You need to learn to take responsibility
for yourselves and your actions, learn what is needed to do the job at
hand, and demonstrate some level of common sense.   You also need to decide
if a research lab is where you really want to be.  Based solely on your
note, you don't have a case.

Best of luck,

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