So I'm the only one in the lab this week. Boss-Man and Lab Tech are out in the Wild Algal West making a collection trip. All the other grad students are writing or working in other labs this week. Which leaves just me. So I decided that this week, while I'm all alone, would be a good time to do fatty acid extractions.
Our method for extracting FA's was designed by a previous grad student, who before she left was asked to teach it to the NY-DEP and USGS. So it's a pretty good method. It involves extracting the FA in a chloroform:methanol solution and then a methylating step involving BF3. It's overall a very caustic and dangerous method. Though supposedly much safer than the previous method of FA extraction which apparently can explode. So I'll take wondering if my samples smell like chloroform.
In order to protect myself from the horrible chemicals, I wear a ton of protective gear. We have liquid proof lab coats, goggles, a face-mask respirator, at least 2 layers of nitrile gloves and then some silver solvent resistant gloves. You may think the 2 nitrile gloves under the silver gloves is a bit over doing it. The silver gloves may be resistant to solvents but they spring holes very easily. But chloroform will go through nitrile, so the 2 layers are there as extra precaution. Here's what the full get-up looks like
|I make science sexy! Oops, not wearing silver gloves because I'm a BAMF.|
Ooh, so here's the part where I almost died. I had just finished prepping a whole bunch of sample tubes by rinsing them in chloroform, and I needed to discard the waste. The waste jug is all the way at the back of the solvent cabinet. In the solvent cabinet is jugs of chloroform, hexane, methanol, and acetone, along with their respective waste jugs. While leaning into the cabinet, I guess I torqued my face mask a bit so it wasn't sealed against my mouth/nose. As I left the cabinet I took a deep breath as I stood up. Where upon I became very dizzy and got a bit of tunnel vision. I was able to put the jug down gently as I grabbed a counter ledge to steady myself and pull the mask away to get some fresh air. THAT was close! This is why, when I knew I was the only one in the building, I asked some other people to make sure I was still alive when the shuttle van left that afternoon. This could have been bad!
But I survived, my research didn't kill me....this time. I am starting to think it has a vendetta against me.