Published: Jan 2002
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SAFETY CAN BE SUMMARIZED IN TWO WORDS, “BE CAREFUL.” No matter which words are used, if an investigator does not regard safety with the most respect possible and does not take it on herself or himself as a responsibility, little can be done. In this day and age, there is a great deal of information about chemical compounds and about process equipment, so all workers should be sure they are informed about toxicity and safe handling procedures. Ask a supplier of materials what they are and how they should be handled, obtain and read Material Safety Data Sheets, and ask questions if you have even the slightest wondering about any facet of what is supplied to you. A listing of the various health and safety items that should be considered including chemical hazards, storage and handling, personal protective equipment and hygiene, house-keeping, first aid, as well as ultraviolet and electron beam radiation process equipment points of concern have been tabulated by RadTech and can be found on its web site. Keep in mind that “safety” and “toxicity” do not necessarily refer to the same thing. Toxicity has to do with a chemical compound's hazard relative to some exposure condition and is usually specified as either the oral or dermal LD-50. Safety has to do with risk assessment, the chance of suffering an adverse effect from exposure, the aspects of taking care not to be exposed by inhalation, skin absorption, or other means, and ensuring that others are not exposed through entry of compounds into the environment. In a similar vein, “toxicity” doesn't necessary mean the same as “irritation.” Dufour  has discussed the irritation of acrylate monomers and oligomers, the fact that contact often causes irritation but can be prevented, and made clear the distinction between irritation and toxicity.