Thursday, September 30, 2010


I had mentioned pyridine just last week in connection to it being part of a new discovered (semi)organic solvent for gold and platinum. Specifically I said
And "pyridine with its pile of dead fish smell is no great shakes either, but again, commonplace for organikers."
But the general public and TV news doesn't see it that way. Yesterday evening, one of the medical school lab buildings at the University of Minnesota was evacuated after a pyridine spill occurred. It was the lead story on at least one of the local TV stations, who were treating it as if it was a chemical warfare attack. Sure, the spill occurred in the hallway (this probably could have been prevent with better lab techniques) and so it entered the general ventilation system which certainly would lead people to evacuate just from the smell, but no one was going to get sick or die except maybe from psychosomatic inducement.

Chemophobia is alive and well.


Anonymous said...

I broke a new 1 liter bottle of 40% trimethylamine once. Lucky for me it was inside of a plastic bag, which contained most of the liquid. The lab smelled so terrible it was difficult to stand in for more than five minutes at a time. I hung my head in shame and told my adviser, expecting her to tell us to not work in the lab for a while or to notify the safety and health people. Instead she instructed me to collect as much of it as possible and distill it. I had to throw my clothes away they smelled so awful.

John said...

There's something about the stinky nitrogen molecules that just gets to you. Worse, it seems that there never is any nose fatigue. I think mercaptans and any other odiferour sulfur molecules do not suffer this double whammy - you just get use to them after a while.

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