This week, you will be researching the question, How much is too much? To begin, we will consider the four ways we can be exposed to a toxic substance:
- Inhalation: breathing a toxic substance in through your mouth or nose
- Absorption: skin or eye contact with a toxic substance
- Ingestion: eating or drinking a toxic substance
- Injection: puncture wound where the skin is pierced and a toxic substance is introduced into the body
In the high school science lab, we have a variety of ways to minimize risk to exposure to toxic substances.
- Inhalation: Work with toxic gases in the fume hood, circulate air through open doors and windows, use the fan system in the room to circulate fresh air.
- Absorption: Wear goggles to protect eyes, wear gloves to protect hands, wear aprons to protect bodies, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect arms and legs, wear closed-toe shoes to protect feet.
- Ingestion: Never, ever eat or drink in the lab. This one is by far the hardest for students to understand. Take a look at your bedroom – is it spotless? How about your bathroom? Odds are, both could use a good cleaning. Assume the same with the lab space. Never, ever eat or drink in the lab. Assume something toxic was spilled on your lab bench the class before and the clean-up job was less-than-perfect. It is easy to touch a contaminated bench top with your hands, then use your hands to eat or drink, thus causing you to inadvertently ingest a toxic substance. For obvious reasons, this is why we never, ever, eat or drink anything produced in the lab. Even if it were perfectly safe outside the lab, inside the lab we must always assume the labware used to conduct the experiment was previously contaminated with something toxic. Rant over.
- Injection: Never pick up broken glassware without proper safety equipment (i.e. gloves, tongs) as a toxic substance on the surface of broken glassware can enter your body if the glassware cuts you.