teratogen exposure

Barb Lewis barb at nmrfam.wisc.edu
Tue Feb 7 11:57:08 EST 1995

In article <ZEw5DE2.brunker at delphi.com>, Marla Brunker <brunker at delphi.com>
> Barb Lewis <barb at nmrfam.wisc.edu> writes:
> >OK, so what about the case I mentioned, where I happened to wander into the
> >lounge/meeting room one day and found that a graduate student was heating
> >ethidium bromide in the same microwave used for food? Whose responsibility
> 	It's your responsibility to avoid the teratogens when you're
> pregnant, just like it's your look-out to eat right and not smoke.
> 	About the grad student though...in my lab, anyone who confused
> a food microwave with a work microwave...well, we wouldn't hit 'em or
> anything, but they'd never hear the end of it. It's illegal too. Didn't
> you chew her out?

As I recall, this microwave was used both for food and for work. People
weren't *supposed* to put things like ethidium bromide into
the flask before heating it, but nobody else seemed to think it was a big
As I said, I think at many universities the level of safety concern for
chemicals is pretty much left up to the professor. (Not so for radiation -
we knew very clearly in which areas radiation was allowed, and food was
definitely not allowed in these areas.)

I didn't feel that I could chew her out, because (1) the rules were not
very clear, (2) I already didn't fit into that lab very well, and (3) I
felt that I was "rocking the boat" enough already just by being pregnant! 

It was much easier to exercise my personal responsibility in an environment
which encouraged my doing so by giving information, medical support, and
paid maternity leave (the national lab). My later university experience
(where the ehthidium bromide incident happened) was much less positive -
there was only reluctantly (IMO) any support at all for pregnancy/maternity
leave, etc., let alone related safety concerns.

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