acrylamide with coffee

Paul N Hengen pnh at
Tue Aug 4 16:26:23 EST 1998

> How on earth did the water cooler get spiked with 32P? and how did anyone
> find out about it?

The radioactivity was detected by a Geiger counter passed nearby a worker
in the lab. It's not clear if the water fountain was contaminated in an
attempt at cover-up.

: Although we had numerous meetings where the investigation was described
: we were never told the actual outcome.  The incident apparently revolved
: around a poor relationship between a researcher and her boss.  From the
: few facts we were given it was apparent that someone *did* ingest 32P,
: a water cooler *was* contaminated (but nowhere near enough to explain
: the human contamination) and the contamination/ingestion *was* deliberate.

It was a pregnant post-doc who got contaminated in John Weinstein's lab
at NIH. The outcome reported on "60 minutes" was that the baby was born
healthy. I'm sure you can find out more about the incident from that.
The result across NCI was that every lab with radiochemicals had to be
locked up all the time, limiting access to ones own set of rooms and
making it very difficult to communicate with other scientists, just pop
in to see what someone else was doing, borrow a cup of acrylamide, etc ;-)


Paul N. Hengen, Ph.D.
National Cancer Institute
Laboratory of Experimental and Computational Biology
Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center
Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201 USA
Phone: (301) 846-5581
FAX:   (301) 846-5598
mailto:pnh at

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