chemical safety during preparation

Paul Cherubini paulcher at
Sat Nov 13 11:29:12 EST 1999

Michael Gochfeld wrote:

> Jim Kruse describes getting a serious headache from using xylene, even
> in a well-ventilated space.  It's not clear why some people seem more
> sensitive to solvents at levels that others tolerate, but it's certainly
> adequate reason for substituting a less hazardous or less unpleasant
> material. 

ALOT of this so-called sensitivity is psychological. If people think
they are being poisoned or think they are working with a potentially
dangerous material they often start feeling very ill. I experienced this
myself one time when I wrongly assumed I had been exposed to colorless,
odorless, deadly methyl bromide. It was a very real and very terrifying

In industries where volitile chemicals or gases are occassionally used
in the vicinity of employees (but not actually exposing the employees)
employers fairly often have to deal with workers who get sick when they
wrongly assume they are being exposed to a deadly chemical. To
demonstrate that this response is psychological, savvy employers, at
random intervals, will periodically substitute water or some other
innocuous substance or gas in place of the usual chemicals being
applied. With such a program in place, employee complaints of illness
drop dramatically. 

Paul Cherubini, Placerville, California

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