Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 15:18:45 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: John Agar <JAGAR**At_Symbol_Here**DCCC.EDU>
Subject: Re: pregnant student in chemistry lab
Comments: cc: rphifer**At_Symbol_Here**
In-Reply-To: <B1331E0BABBF2F41ADBB549EF89EA74A033492391CA6**At_Symbol_Here**>
We make available to any student who requests it a list of all chemicals 
and/or microorganisms used in each course.  We then recommend that if they 
are concerned, they should discuss the list with their physician.  Also, 
MSDS's are available in each laboratory for all the chemicals used in that 
laboratory, sorted by course.  The following is the wording we use in our 
student safety documents, that are distributed and reviewed during the 
first lab session:

"If you are or think you might be pregnant, if you have a lowered immune 
response, or if you have any other health concerns, consult with your 
physician before performing any of the laboratory activities.  A list of 
chemicals and/or microorganisms used in the course will be provided upon 

Due to student confidentiality and the fact that we are not health 
professionals, we do not discuss individual health concerns with the 
students, but rather refer them to this statement.

John Agar

Dr. John R. Agar, Jr.
Dean of Mathematics, Science, & Engineering Division
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Delaware County Community College
901 South Media Line Road
Media, PA  19063-1094

>>> "David C. Finster"  8/9/2010 2:54 PM >>>
I am aware that a student who will be taking a general chemistry course 
this fall is pregnant.  I am writing to the list to seek advice about how 
to best handle this circumstance (assuming that one of the options - not 
taking the course - is not a preferred option).

(I have checked the D-CHAS archives, and other sources, and found no 
particularly helpful answers to this question.  This is not really a CHP 
matter since the student is not an employee - although we ordinarly use 
our CHP as the safety document for students, too.)

So far as I know (but I can check this to be certain) none of the 
chemicals used in our general chemistry labs are teratogens.  Thus, my 
initial suggested course of action is that the student participate in all 
of the labs experiments (using all of the PPE at all times that is 
recommended for all students.)  We rarely use chemical hoods in this 
particular course since most of the chemicals we use present no significant
 inhalation risk.  (We use hoods when there is an inhalation risk.)

If there is some chemical that is, or is suspected to be, a teratogen, I 
would advise the student to skip that lab (and have the instructor 
determine how to do this without any penalty to the student).

The pathway suggested above seems reasonable and prudent to me.  However, 
since we live in a world where the consideration of worst-case scenarios 
is wise and legally prudent, it seems to me that having the student 
consult with her physician (with a complete list of chemicals "in hand") 
and having the physician and/or student "sign off" on some reasonable 
statement in advance seems smart.  Since I would not expect a physician to 
be familiar with the teratogenic effects of "all chemicals", I would also 
present the physician with a detailed list of the known or suspected 
effects of each chemical (extracted from TOXNET) with regard to being 
handled while pregnant.

The advice and experience of the D-CHAS group is welcome.


David C. Finster
Professor of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Chemistry
Wittenberg University

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