teratogen exposure

Lauraine Hawkins LKH1 at psuvm.psu.edu
Wed Feb 8 07:45:49 EST 1995

The original question was about warning / informing students about
potential hazards. (I agree with all the posts that say that we as
professionals in a work place should be responsible for ourselves and
pursue the information we want about effects / levels of chemicals and
radiation.) Undergraduates are not likely to know enough basic chemistry
or biology to even consider the possibility that there are hazardous
substances in a lab - most will assume that since they are using the stuff
in a lab somebody has okayed it as safe. I teach anatomy courses which
use cats or fetal pigs for dissection. These animals have been preserved
in solutions which pose some risk to a pregnant woman's baby. A standard
part of my syllabus, in the section on "important rules for laboratory
safety" following other general information, says "if you are (or plan
to be) pregnant this semester, see me immediately about possible health
hazards." I have had females in this situation 3 times in the past 3 years.
I give them the information about the preservatives, ask them to discuss
the risks with their doctor, and tell them that it is their choice how to
handle it. Depending on the timing, I've suggested dropping the course
and taking it later or I've made special arrangements to complete the
course using only models & on an individualized plan so that there is no
exposure to the fumes. None of these women and none of their advisors
knew anything about the hazards associated with the course until I
started the policy of announcing it. This institution (Penn State) has
very poor procedures (basically nearly none) about handling these
situations. I did my PhD in New Mexico where lists of chemicals and MSDS
info had to be available & basic safety training was mandatory for all
faculty & grad students. To sum up, I don't think we can assume that
students know about hazards and if we present the information up front
they can decide for themselves what to do.

Lauraine Hawkins (lkh1 at psuvm.psu.edu)

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