Date: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 14:59:05 -0500
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: "Schmidt-Nebril, Kathleen" <kschmidtnebril**At_Symbol_Here**DOM.EDU>
Subject: Re: pregnant student in chemistry lab

For my courses if a student is pregnant I do not allow them to 
participate in lab at all but rather set up "Dry" labs or use computer 
virtual labs in place of the real thing.  The unborn fetus is so 
susceptible why take a risk especially when all or most of the exposure 
limits are based on adults.  I also am biased on this from my own 
experience of being pregnant and performing lab work as a development 
chemist.  I did have unexplained issues with both of my pregnancies 
years ago and can't help but feel that my exposure to chemicals may have 
contributed.  I'd rather be safe then sorry with a student or see if 
they can arrange to take the class at a later date.

Kathleen Schmidt-Nebril, NRCC-CHO
Chemistry Division Department of Natural Science
Dominican University
River Forest, IL 60305

-----Original Message-----
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List on behalf of David C. Finster
Sent: Mon 8/9/2010 1:54 PM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: [DCHAS-L] pregnant student in chemistry lab
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 

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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