Dana Om Pottery on fri 28 jan 11
I have to chuckle at your post. I too went to college in the 70's. Guess w=
the big college job was? The asbestos factory. Thank god i was a waitress!
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Deborah Thuman
Sent: Fri, January 28, 2011 9:59:27 AM
Subject: Safety in the studio
Back in the late 70's when I was in college, I worked towards a dual
degree - ba in journalism and a ba in biology. I had ether squirted
under my nose - so that I could know how much to squirt on the fruit
flies without killing them. Imagine 15 students in an enclosed
classroom all armed with ether and squirting fruit flies and looking
at them under a microscope. It's a wonder we didn't kill ourselves.
I had to work with formaldehyde until I developed an allergy to it and
refused to use the stuff any more. This brought no end of
consternation to the professor. Then again, he had asthma and smoked,
so what did he know about safety?
I handled radioactive material that was in a glass beaker. I was
assured that the radioactive part couldn't cross the glass. Okay...
how about flying out of the opening on top?
I look back and wonder why, if I was smart enough to earn a dual
degree, why wasn't I smart enough to insist on safety precautions?
A couple years ago, we finally got a safety person for the clay studio
at New Mexico State University. The glaze room was way high for lead
in the air. How thrilling. Worse, the vent hood over where we weigh
and mix our glazes didn't always work. There's a kiln room for the
electric kilns - which vents into one of the grad student studios. At
least the gas kilns are outside. The building is a retro fit (it used
to be a gym), but still better safety precautions could have been in
place from the beginning.
Safety is much better at the NMSU ceramic studio now, and I now have
some good ideas for safety features when Jim and I build our own studio.
Dana Om Pottery on sat 29 jan 11
Holy Cow Fred. That is a frightening story indeed. Back in the 50's my dad
worked for DuPont. He had a PHD in Biochemistry and also a degree in Entomo=
Early in his career he was in sales (which he liked better than his later y=
in the corporate area). He used to tromp around cotton fields and sugar can=
fields, sorgum, soybean etc in the South. would frequently bring me home
rattlesnake tails from run ins while out in the field. He was selling herbi=
and pesticides. No protection while he was out spraying. He pretty much liv=
healthy life, occasional glass of wine and smoked a pipe in the Navy. At 72=
months after he retired, he was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. Died with=
weeks. Swear it was from what he was exposed to way back when. It is incred=
how things have changed just in my lifetime alone. Sad though that those
discoveries are usually at a horrible cost.
----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Fred Parker
Sent: Sat, January 29, 2011 11:08:03 AM
Subject: Re: Safety in the studio
Deb, this really takes me back! In high school, during the summer of 1959 =
got a job in a (very BIG name) chemical plant in my hometown. We used huge
cylinders of chlorine, 50# bags of letharge (a lead oxide), all the common
organic solvents and high pressure steam. When handling the letharge we
were supposed to wear respirators but that only applied to the person
dumping it into the reactor hatch -- not other workers in the area. About
the only other hard-and-fast safety protocols we followed required that whe=
we carried the highly explosive, shock-sensitive containers of peroxide
catalysts up to the top floor of the plant for adding to the reactors. (It
was so dangerously explosive it was stored in an isolation building out in
the middle of a field where it, presumably, would not destroy a plant
building if it went off.) Safety protocol: we had to use the back stairs o=
the outside of the building -- not the freight elevator. They didn't want =
fireball inside the plant where acetone and other organic solvents were
routinely used to mop the floors.
My personal favorite tale from those days is about being tapped to clean th=
inside of a chemical reactor after a run. There was unimaginable gook left
on the walls and agitator blades. Somebody had to clean it up. Usually
that "somebody was low man on the food chain. Guess where I was. Here's
how it worked:
The unlucky recruit was fitted with an old parachute harness, a supplied-ai=
respirator and given a brass putty knife. A rope was run over a pulley
suspended over the hatch of the 20,000 gallon reactor (about 12 feet deep)
and attached to the parachute harness. The agitator motor switch was locke=
"off" with a padlock and the key was given to the guy about to go in.
Somebody then used the rope to raise the victim, then pushed him over the
hatch and lowered him in where he spent hours in an environment of toxicity
and no air. Inside, I was TOTALLY dependent on the supplied air in the
respirator. Because those things have to fit very tightly, it was
impossible to breathe in or out if the air supply was cut. Of course, a
favorite prank of the shift loser-of-the-day was to crimp the air hose.
That summer job was a real experience; however, I certainly would not want
my son doing it, and after my father found out what it was like in that
plant he regretted allowing me to do it. As I recall, only one building
blew up that summer. They were designed to blow their panels off the walls
to minimize injury and damage, and that's what happened. Somebody created =
spark while somebody else was squeegeeing down the floors with a volatile,
All of that happened before there was any OSHA, which pretty much changed
all of that. However, the pendulum does swing...
Forty years later I was teaching a course in metal sculpting at a local art=
center near my home. We were near the end of the course, and were working
on finishes that looked like patinas without actually being an oxide type
patina. Instead of the dangerous stuff -- acids etc. -- we used various oi=
paints, varnishes and so forth. Nothing more than was used in every campus
art building anywhere that has a painting course. About halfway through th=
session I was called into the hallway where I was told "someone" down the
hall in another class was complaining about smelling turpentine, and we had
to stop using it. I'm a big fan of safety -- a BIG fan -- but that made me
wonder just how wimpy were becoming. What's next? Vinaigrette?
On Fri, 28 Jan 2011 07:59:27 -0700, Deborah Thuman
>Back in the late 70's when I was in college, I worked towards a dual
>degree - ba in journalism and a ba in biology. I had ether squirted
>under my nose - so that I could know how much to squirt on the fruit
>flies without killing them. Imagine 15 students in an enclosed
>classroom all armed with ether and squirting fruit flies and looking
>at them under a microscope. It's a wonder we didn't kill ourselves.
>I had to work with formaldehyde until I developed an allergy to it and
>refused to use the stuff any more. This brought no end of
>consternation to the professor. Then again, he had asthma and smoked,
>so what did he know about safety?
>I handled radioactive material that was in a glass beaker. I was
>assured that the radioactive part couldn't cross the glass. Okay...
>how about flying out of the opening on top?