Volume 92, Issue 23

Thursday, October 15, 1998

talk it out


OPINIONS
 

Read the rules

Re: Ignorance is a science student, Oct. 6

To the Editor:

In his letter, Victor Daveikis ridicules D.S. Hayden's concerns about the wearing of lab coats in public places. While I agree that it would be inappropriate to confront someone wearing a lab coat in a cafeteria, Mr. Daveikis underestimates the potential hazards involved.

During the course of my research I regularly work with radioactivity, bacterial cultures and poisonous or otherwise hazardous chemicals. Contrary to Mr. Daveikis' assertion, in many cases a lab coat serves to protect me from the materials with which I work.

For example, when handling small amounts of radioactivity my personal protective equipment consists of gloves, glasses and a lab coat. I never leave the laboratory area while wearing my lab coat, since doing so would needlessly expose the people and places around me to the risk of contamination. Indeed, Western's Laboratory Health and Safety Manual for General Laboratory Practices states in section 9.5.3.3a that lab coats should be removed before leaving a lab.

It is very true that some people who wear lab coats are not exposed to hazards that could be transferred to others via the lab coat. If someone's lab coat has been exposed to nothing more hazardous than a computer virus, then they are justified in leaving the lab coat on while eating lunch. In such a case, however, one has to wonder why the individual would put on a lab coat in the first place.

I hope that all members of the university community will think twice before wearing a lab coat in public and will remove them when appropriate.

Derek McLachlin
PhD Candidate V
Biochemistry



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Copyright The Gazette 1998