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NSLS ESH Highlight #12

You Only Have One Pair of Eyes - Protect Them!!!

Date: April 29, 1998
Editor: N. Gmür

Toxic by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed
Carcinogen, Mutagen, Corrosive, Combustible
May cause heritable genetic damage
Causes burns

A colleague of ours was working in a well ventilated hood. She wore a lab coat and gloves while using with a 50 ml syringe filled with Formalin (a solution containing 37% formaldehyde). While pressing on the plunger, the needle came loose. She was not wearing a face shield or goggles and was sprayed in the face and right eye with about 10 ml of the formalin. The pain was immediate and severe, almost to the point of unconsciousness. She immediately (and correctly) placed her head in a sink, removed her contact lenses and flushed her eye with water. A nearby co-worker assisted her in continuing to flush the eye for 10 minutes. A visit to an ophthalmologist revealed that the cornea had been protected by the contact lens, but that the tissue surrounding the eye suffered second degree burns and macroscopic edema (build up of water in the tissue). Our friend was very lucky. Her eye is now slowly healing, but her vision will be slightly degraded and a change in lens prescription will be necessary. Note: this event did not take place at the NSLS.

Lessons Learned
  1. A ventilated hood, gloves and a labcoat do not provide splash protection for the user’s face. Take the necessary precautions by wearing the appropriate Personnel Protective Equipment, such as goggles and/or a full face shield.
  2. Always include a full list of the chemicals you plan to use in your Experimental Safety Approval Form, so that NSLS ES&H can supply you with the proper advice.

Consult NSLS ES&H staff and our ES&H Services Facility Representative.