• Question: Is safety vital in your job as you are handling cancer cells?

    Asked by danielbarrett to Sarah on 13 Jun 2011.
    • Photo: Sarah Thomas

      Sarah Thomas answered on 13 Jun 2011:

      Safety is so important, but it isn’t because of the cancer cells. It’s all the other dangers in the lab! For a start, things can go wrong. A new reaction that you haven’t tried before might end up being really violent and exploding in your fumehood, so you have to do a risk assessment before trying anything new! I wear my white coat to protect my skin and clothes against the chemicals, I wear safety glasses to protect my eyes, I wear gloves because your hands are most at risk to all these chemicals.

      One of the chemicals I use, I always wear a breathing mask if I’m going to use it. It’s called DMF and it is known to harm your fertility, but only for women, it’s safe for guys. We have a first aid kit in our lab because it is easy to hurt yourself, even just on broken glass.

      We also have a special gel, it’s in case you get acid on your skin. If you get acid on your skin, you just put the gel on straight away and it stops the burn!

      Things happen in the lab all the time but it’s not all bad! One day my friend Phil spilled a chemical down his leg so he had to take his trousers off and wash his leg with the emergency shower. Luckily he was ok but the shower head fell off and we couldn’t stop the water flowing and it ended up flooding our lab! It was pretty funny! Also my friend Donna dropped a bottle of solvent on the floor and it smashed and soaked her feet. She took a couple of steps backwards and we were surprised to see her shoes melting away. It had reacted with the rubber! Her feet were fine but her shoes were ruined!