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Avatar universal

chemicals while pregnant

I am a chemist and work in a QC lab.  I am 6 weeks pregnant and my work does not have a policy of moving me outside the lab while pregnant.  I cannot leave work so I am forced to stay working in the lab.  Some of the chemicals I work with are Chloroform, toluene, acetonitrile, dimethyl formamide and others.  I do not use these chemicals on a daily basis but maybe once a week or so and I work under the hood with protective gloves.  Other solvents that we use more often and are found in bottles on every chemist's bench are methanol, ethanol and Acetone.  All the chemists use these chemicals daily outside on their benches without a hood but I try to use it always in the hood after I found out I was pregnant.  Is it safe to stay working in the lab?  I am not sure what the air level for these solvents are, but my supervisors keep saying that it is safe to stay working.  please advice.  I am not sure what my legal rights are?
2 Responses
Avatar universal
Hello,

First, I will not be able to provide a definitely answer as to whether is is "safe" to work in your lab. As you would know from working in the laboratory environment, there are many potential hazards and laboratories have unique features (potential exposures, ventilation, etc). In general, you should follow the usual practice recommended by the laboratory and material safety data sheets (MSDSs) that are available to you.

In addition, in this forum and as a physician, I am not able to provide you with legal advice.

An OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) link that may be helpful: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=10106

I encourage you to use the hood when working with volatile chemicals that require such protection and, of course, use the recommended personal protective equipment.

In terms of the OSHA permissible exposure limits (PEL), those limits can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/. For example, for toluene: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/pdfs/0619.pdf

A more difficult challenge is knowing what the actual levels of the chemicals are in your work setting. When chemicals are used under hood that are designed properly and functioning well, the air levels are presumable quite low and within recommended limits.

One employer explains their approach to this topic at: http://ehs.ucsc.edu/lab_research_safety/pubs/facts/PregnancySupervisors.pdf

~•~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
Avatar universal
Hello,

I appreciate your health concern since laboratory setting can have a exposure of the chemicals. However, QA labs have variety of chemicals apart from the list of chemicals mentioned by you. But the fact is QA labs always use these chemicals in lower limit in comparison to their manufacturing sites. Hence exposure always remain in lower limit to the persons working in the lab. Additionally, it will be always helpful to monitor if accidentally their exposure becomes high. Also follow safe practices like wearing apron, safety googles and mask(where you smell something unusual).

Hope this helps.

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