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Anyone else getting trained by the safety office?

Peter Bell bell at pantheon.yale.edu
Thu Aug 7 07:50:32 EST 1997


x-no-archive:  yes

I'm just curious:

Today, my advisor got an email asking him to designate someone to spend
a morning with our chemical safety folk learning how to properly cope
with the handling of ricin, botulinum, or tetrodotoxin.  

I'm the designated participant from our lab, so I got to call safety and
RSVP and ask them why TTX was on the list.  The list, apparently, is for
compounds which are toxic at or below an LD50 of 10 nanograms per
kilogram.  I asked them why TTX was on the list, given that it's LD50 --
by injection, not by ingestion -- is three orders of magnitude greater
than that.  

"The stuff the regs cover is in a citrate buffer."  Hmmm...  Citrate
buffer gives a 1000-fold increase in potency?  Film at 11.  

Lord.  My impression is that someone mistyped the LD50 for TTX in a
citrate buffer.  The safety officer and I chatted for a bit;  it turns
out that this special training is a consequence, ultimately, of recent
antiterrorism legislation here in the states.  This is a splendid
example of bolting the door when there haven't even been cattle in the
barn;  in addition to TTX being listed inadvertently, ricin has been
confiscated in gram quantities from at least two extremist right sorts
here in the US - and in each case, they appear to have obtained it not
by stealing it from unsecured laboratories or by purchasing it, but by
extracting it themselves from the beans....  

(One fellow crossed into the US from Canada a bit back carrying - get
this - 130 *grams* of ricin.  The border guards were told it was coyote
poison, and were both suspicious of his story and lucky they weren't
killed testing it.)

I wanted to know if I'd get a badge or something for attending the
seminar.  Sadly, not.  Seems to me that as long as I'm enrolled in the
War on Terrorism, I should have at least a badge and preferably a
sidearm with which to defend the lab against intruders bent on stealing
our TTX...  

Bemused,

Peter
bell at pantheon.yale.edu
        



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