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Author Topic: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?  (Read 3283 times)

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PdG3Precatalyst

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Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« on: September 23, 2018, 09:27:54 AM »

Hello all!
I’ve been working in organic synthesis lab as an undergraduate student for more than a year. It turned out a few weeks ago that I have strong allergic reaction (rash, itching) on organic solvents or some compounds.  It had never appeared before, and I’m pretty sure that my work in the lab has caused it, and my doctor agreed with that. Fortunately, I have done all practical part of my bachelor thesis in time, so now it’s no necessity to work in lab.

I’m very eager to organic synthesis and I am one of the best students at our department, but it appears to me that I can’t continue my research in this field. On the other hand, I’m very interested in organic chemistry and don’t want to change my specialty completely.

Could anyone suggest a kind of research I may be involved in without damaging my health? Have you ever heard about chemists with allergy to chemicals? What do they do now?  I thank in advance for any answers :)
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wildfyr

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #1 on: September 23, 2018, 01:21:58 PM »

Computational? Biochemistry? Biochemistry doesn't tend to involve a lot of solvents, and contact with the materials is much much lower.
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kriggy

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2018, 11:31:32 PM »

I think computational chem might be for you. Also, if you like spectroscopy methos, I suggest trying to get some work in NMR department? Its not really synthesis exactly but helping the organics to decipher their structures and running the stuff is pretty cool. Not to mention NMR specialists/technicians are quite well paid.
You could possibly find some work in groups that work with synthetic DNA/RNA molecules, those are mostly done in automated synthesisers therefore the risk of you being in contact with the chemicals is low

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2018, 11:46:48 PM »

It turned out a few weeks ago that I have strong allergic reaction (rash, itching) on organic solvents or some compounds.  It had never appeared before,

Which solvent?  If you identify which is giving you the problem you can take precautions to not get it on your skin. You have PPE and fume hoods to avoid exposure. Some chem allergies do build up with further exposure, such that you might be fine with it for years then suddenly you no longer have any tolerance for it. You shouldn't be getting chems on your skin anyway - gloves? Now you know you cannot tolerate this particular solvent maybe you can use alternatives or just be extra careful when using this one?

I used to use a particular monomer during my post grad years - I was fine with it at first, but started to have less tolerance for it as the years went by. By the end of the post I found the chemically totally obnoxious and had to be very careful about handling it. All this was made much worse after not realising I had got some on my glove...  and as I had a cold I, rather stupidly without thinking, wiped my nose and got some of this monomer in my nose  - it was horrible. Thankfully though I don't really work with monomerics anymore.

   
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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2018, 12:37:19 AM »

A further thought - some chemicals are really nasty and dangerous - but we still use them with the right precautions in place. You just need to treat the chemical you are allergic too with more respect so that it doesn't get on or in you in any way. How is using such a solvent any different from using a really nasty substance that you can't get on you?
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Babcock_Hall

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2018, 01:00:40 AM »

By any chance were you working with dicyclohexylcarbodiidmide?
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wildfyr

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2018, 08:06:59 AM »

Ooo Babcock! Good call! DCC is a famously allergenic compound. You, sir, deserve a mole snack for sure.
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PdG3Precatalyst

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2018, 04:29:32 AM »

Computational? Biochemistry? Biochemistry doesn't tend to involve a lot of solvents, and contact with the materials is much much lower.

I think computational chem might be for you. Also, if you like spectroscopy methos, I suggest trying to get some work in NMR department? Its not really synthesis exactly but helping the organics to decipher their structures and running the stuff is pretty cool. Not to mention NMR specialists/technicians are quite well paid.
You could possibly find some work in groups that work with synthetic DNA/RNA molecules, those are mostly done in automated synthesisers therefore the risk of you being in contact with the chemicals is low

Thank you very much for these suggestions! I'm also looking for opportunity to join a group that works with peptide synthesis, it appears pretty close to me and doesn't mean working a lot with a wide scope of chemicals.
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PdG3Precatalyst

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2018, 04:58:00 AM »

It turned out a few weeks ago that I have strong allergic reaction (rash, itching) on organic solvents or some compounds.  It had never appeared before,

Which solvent?  If you identify which is giving you the problem you can take precautions to not get it on your skin. You have PPE and fume hoods to avoid exposure. Some chem allergies do build up with further exposure, such that you might be fine with it for years then suddenly you no longer have any tolerance for it. You shouldn't be getting chems on your skin anyway - gloves? Now you know you cannot tolerate this particular solvent maybe you can use alternatives or just be extra careful when using this one?

I used to use a particular monomer during my post grad years - I was fine with it at first, but started to have less tolerance for it as the years went by. By the end of the post I found the chemically totally obnoxious and had to be very careful about handling it. All this was made much worse after not realising I had got some on my glove...  and as I had a cold I, rather stupidly without thinking, wiped my nose and got some of this monomer in my nose  - it was horrible. Thankfully though I don't really work with monomerics anymore.

 

I don't know exactly which solvent or compound triggered allergy. And I am not fancy about wondering it by experimental way:)
I am used to work in the fume hood and always use gloves when treating chemicals. There are strict rules about it in our lab. As I remember, I was performing extraction of some bromo indole derivative and small amount of organic layer accidently dropped on the sleeve of my robe. I haven't taken much attention to it then. But a few hours after that I noticed a small pink spot on my skin. After three or four days it became much bigger and more red, and started itching. Then, several spots appeared on my arms and belly. It looked horrible and the itching wasn't better. By that time I had seen a doctor, who assigned some anti-hystamine meds. They didn't help, so when I saw the doctor again, he assigned large dose of Dexamethasone intravenous. Only after that I stopped suffering. So as you see, I am quite afraid of continuing my work in organic synthesis lab.
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kriggy

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2018, 02:38:46 AM »

Maybe it is not really an alergic reaction but the compound caused it, like a chemical burn or something. You never know the possible biological activity. Even if it is an allergy, then it might be allergy to that specific compound so you will be fine when you work with other stuff.

Friend of mine had simmilar accident and got a rash on his hands, possibly worsened by sun but it got away in few weeks and he is still able to work in a lab no problem

OrganicDan96

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Re: Allergy to chemicals: is this the end of being organic chemist?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2018, 09:49:14 AM »

It turned out a few weeks ago that I have strong allergic reaction (rash, itching) on organic solvents or some compounds.  It had never appeared before,

Which solvent?  If you identify which is giving you the problem you can take precautions to not get it on your skin. You have PPE and fume hoods to avoid exposure. Some chem allergies do build up with further exposure, such that you might be fine with it for years then suddenly you no longer have any tolerance for it. You shouldn't be getting chems on your skin anyway - gloves? Now you know you cannot tolerate this particular solvent maybe you can use alternatives or just be extra careful when using this one?

I used to use a particular monomer during my post grad years - I was fine with it at first, but started to have less tolerance for it as the years went by. By the end of the post I found the chemically totally obnoxious and had to be very careful about handling it. All this was made much worse after not realising I had got some on my glove...  and as I had a cold I, rather stupidly without thinking, wiped my nose and got some of this monomer in my nose  - it was horrible. Thankfully though I don't really work with monomerics anymore.

 

I don't know exactly which solvent or compound triggered allergy. And I am not fancy about wondering it by experimental way:)
I am used to work in the fume hood and always use gloves when treating chemicals. There are strict rules about it in our lab. As I remember, I was performing extraction of some bromo indole derivative and small amount of organic layer accidently dropped on the sleeve of my robe. I haven't taken much attention to it then. But a few hours after that I noticed a small pink spot on my skin. After three or four days it became much bigger and more red, and started itching. Then, several spots appeared on my arms and belly. It looked horrible and the itching wasn't better. By that time I had seen a doctor, who assigned some anti-hystamine meds. They didn't help, so when I saw the doctor again, he assigned large dose of Dexamethasone intravenous. Only after that I stopped suffering. So as you see, I am quite afraid of continuing my work in organic synthesis lab.
was it just the bromo indole or was there anything else in there? what else was in the reaction you were working up. what solvent was it in?
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