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K-State Today

May 28, 2014



Don't bring your work home with you: Working safely in the lab

By Steve Galitzer

Did your mother ever tell you not to put strange things in your mouth? A recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene adds some credence to your mother's warning.

In the journal article "Simulated transfer of liquids and powders from hands and clothing to the mouth," the authors looked at the amount of liquids, vinegar and powders, calcium acetate and magnesium carbonate, which were transferred from hands, arms, gloves, respirators, clothing and pens to their mouths during normal movements. They found that direct transfer from hands to the inside an individual's mouth was greater than transfer around their mouth, such as licking the lips. Transfer from bare arms to an individual's mouth was higher than from arms covered by cotton sleeves for both liquids and powders.

This kind of transfer is called inadvertent ingestion, non-dietary ingestion or unintentional exposure. Many adults smoke, chew pens or bit their nails, all unintentional exposure habits that lead to contaminant exposure. Other studies suggest that the average hand-to-mouth contact frequency is two to five contacts per hour in adults.

This journal article gives credence to the need to wear cotton outerwear and gloves while working in laboratories and shops. Before leaving the laboratory or shop, remove the protective clothing and gloves then thoroughly wash hands, arms and face. Don't bring your work home with you.