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Organic Chemistry Lab - VOC Exposure

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  • Organic Chemistry Lab - VOC Exposure

    I am currently a student and I am enrolled in Organic Chemistry for this summer term. My 6 month old is exclusively breastfed and takes bottles of pumped milk while I am away. The lab safety guidelines for my organic chemistry class explicitly state to consult an OB before enrolling in the class if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. I asked my lactation consultant regarding the safety of taking this class and nursing an infant and she referred me to Infant Risk for more information.

    Is there any research to support safety or risks involved in breastfeeding with exposure to inhaling organic solvents and other volatile organic compounds? Is there any information on how long organic solvents stay in a human body? If it is not safe to nurse directly after exposure, can I pump and dump until it is out of my system and resume breastfeeding? The lab is 3x/week for 3 hours and it is a 12 week course.

    I can provide more information regarding which compounds will be used in class if it would be helpful. Thank you.

  • #2
    I combed through my lab manual and I have noted any chemical compounds that were listed as toxic or carcinogenic. Some of them we work with multiple times and others only once. I can wear gloves to prevent skin exposure and I will be wearing safety glasses to prevent exposure to my eyes. Anything highly toxic will be done under a hood to prevent inhalation.

    Salicylic acid
    Carbon tetrachloride
    Hydrochloric acid (concentrated)
    Sodium hydroxide
    Petroleum ether


    • #3

      Dr Hale advises that environmental exposures such as in lab settings are probably ok as long as you are following OSHA safety guidelines and using all recommended protective wear. Make sure the hoods and the cooling/venting equipment is working properly in the labs. It may be advisable to shower and change clothes before handling/feeding your infant for any residue that may get on your skin and clothes. If you happens to have any symptoms from environmental exposures such as headache, nausea, dizziness, etc. wait until all symptoms have passed to nurse or pump.

      Sandra Lovato R.N.
      InfantRisk Center