Thursday, March 08, 2007

Also, don't pour acid directly into your eyes

I'm currently working on a presentation for my company's annual safety training. In every lab safety training I've ever undergone, the trainer or pamphlet always makes a point of saying, "No mouth pipetting." (For the non-sciencey out there, "mouth pipetting" is when you take a little glass or plastic tube, insert one end into a sample of, say, bacterial cell suspension, insert the other end into your mouth, and suck some of the bacterial cell suspension into the tube in order to transfer it to another container.)

And every time I come across that rule written out explicitly, I think to myself, "Who would do that?"

8 comments:

Marian said...

I have always thought the same thing (actually more along the lines of "Who would EVER put lab stuff into his/her mouth?!"). That is, until I first saw an electrophysiologist patch a cell. Apparently sucking on the end of a very long tube which has an inverted pipette tip at the end is actually part of the protocol. It's a wonder ephys people don't get written up by EH&S. :)

Mo said...

Oh my sweet Lord, are you serious? They can't use a bulb?

Tracy said...

Who would do that? Probably the same idiot who stuck his fingers in the running lawn mower blade...

(actual product liability case that I read while taking Torts)

Marian said...

Well, it's a very, very long tube (i.e. no chance you'll actually suck anything into your mouth), but I'm assuming that using a bulb is not an option, or the field would have switched technique long ago. Something about creating proper suction to form a patch on the membrane. All I know is every time I see it, I think - isn't there another way?

terri c said...

How things have changed!!!! When I was working as a chemist 30 years ago or thereabouts, lots of folks pipetted by mouth. I have personally seen folks (men, mostly, I have to admit) pipette benzene, sulfuric acid, etc., by mouth. It never fails I am sure; there was culture among some that pipette bulbs were for wussies.

gradschoolescapee said...

A former advisor's collaborator gave himself TB mouth-pipetting TB cultures. Seriously.

Doktah said...

Somatic cell nuclear transfer also requires very strong suction (more than you can get with a bulb or electric pipettor) and a way to react quickly to unexpected changes. Therefore (with a long tube) they mouth pipette. I mentioned they could also use a large syringe and a valve to draw the air, hold it and adjust it with the plunger. I love the response "yeah, but we've ALWAYS done it this way". Aaah, science.

Mo said...

I am horrified - HORRIFIED - at the amount of mouth pipetting that is going on out there. Who knew?

And also, who would have expected that THIS post would get so many comments?

Gah. Mouth pipetting. I was just kidding about the title, but maybe I should also include that advice in my safety talk.