Date: Tue, 10 Aug 2010 15:50:15 -0500
Reply-To: chemsafety**At_Symbol_Here**
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: "Jay A. Young" <chemsafety**At_Symbol_Here**VERIZON.NET>
Subject: Re: pregnant student in chemistry lab

This issue on teratogens and the instructional lab needs some clarific ation.
First of all, Think about it:  How does one go about determining that chemical X is or is not teratogenic for humans?
The answer is obvious;  so what is done instead is to use all sor ts of non-human species and then make guesses as best one can about the app lication of the results to human pregnancies.
Consequently, at this time we can have only a vague sort of certainty that chemical X is, or is not, teratogenic.
For detailed discussions on this matter, see the references on teratog enicity that I have quoted in every issue of CLIPs in J. Chem. Ed.  [U nfortunately, the new Editor in his great wisdom has determined that CLIPs will no lnoger be published.]
Jay A. Young


Aug 9, 2010 03:08:51 PM, DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here** wrote:

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 o f the options =E2=80=93 not taking the course =E2=80=93 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 =E2=80=93 alt hough 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 partici pate 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 th is particular course since most of the chemicals we use present no signific ant 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 prude nt to me.  However, since we live in a world where the consideration o f worst-case scenarios is wise and legally prudent, it seems to me that hav ing the student consult with her physician (with a complete list of chemica ls "in hand=") and having the physician and/or student =E2 =80=9Csign off=" on some reasonable statement in advance seems smart .  Since I would not expect a physician to be familiar with the terato genic effects of "all chemicals=", I would also present the physician with a detailed list of the known or suspected effects of each ch emical (extracted from TOXNET) with regard to being handled while pregnant.

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


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

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