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EHS received a report that a post-doctoral student had experienced an exposure to a compound called Trizol (phenol/thiocyanate compound) several days earlier and had received medical evaluation and treatment at Christiana Hospital. Trizol is a highly corrosive and toxic chemical that can cause burns on contact with the skin as well as systemic poisoning. Details of the incident are below.
Reportedly the incident took place after hours while the researcher was working alone. He was finishing a process and decided to dilute the remaining solution in the bottom of a tube in an attempt to rinse it into the proper waste container. He took the tube containing 5 ml of the trizol compound to the sink, held it under a running faucet which caused it to splash out of the tube onto his arms causing burns on both forearms. Reportedly the researcher had removed his lab coat just prior to the incident, but was still wearing the proper gloves; however, he reportedly was not wearing his splash goggles. He washed off the affected area on his arms and reported to the Student Health Center, who referred him to Christiana Hospital. Fortunately this lab and department had provided extensive training to include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for this particular operation so the researcher was very aware of the hazards of the material. However, the method used to remove the excess trizol from the tube was a decision made contrary to the established SOP.
Several key elements of this incident need to be highlighted for lessons learned.