> >I think these folks new full well in many cases that there was a risk to their health, and quite possibly their lives, by engaging in these practices. Yet the advancement of science made it necessary, and so they did it. It was part of being a scientist, and especially a chemist.
This concept is discussed in the 1995 edition of Prudent Practices from the National Academy of Sciences. I think that their chapter on safety culture tries to close the door on this era of the "heroic" of science by establishing that this attitude is no longer appropriate, for the reasons that Kristi lists.
However, I think as the 21st Century lab discovery work develops into a Big Science enterprise, we have another emerging aspect to consider - not only do scientists have a responsibility to prudently protect themselves, but also the responsibility to think about the health and safety of others in the lab who could be "collateral damage". The prime example of this situation is the Curie lab, where the leaders (Marie and her daughter), as well as many of the technicians who died of radiation poisoning (see reference below). I think that this example would be as useful to include in general reviews of lab safety as smoking in the lab.
Thanks to everyone for their comments on this topic; it is helpful to think through a koan out loud sometimes...
Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO
Chemical Hygiene Officer
Keene State College
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