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Friday, 17 September 2010


Blood is a complex mixture of water, salts, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, Red and White blood cells and platelets.  I know because I used to work in a Clinical Chemistry laboratory in Glasgow.  We analysed all of the components except the R&WBCs and platelets.

Every morning in the lab was the same, collection and careful labelling of hundreds of tubes of blood, using different containers, some with preservative chemicals ready added, Fluoride for the glucose and alcohol specimens, Heparin when we wanted to get plasma, and plain tubes when we wanted to allow the blood to clot to produce serum.  Then we centrifuged the tubes and separated the aqueous component from the cellular  into a different tube, again clearly labelled.  It took an hour or two every morning, and it had to be careful meticulous work.  A wrong label could be fatal, if the wrong blood analysis result was applied to the medical treatment of a patient, so we were trained and certified and legally responsible for our own work.

It was also dangerous.  The second year I was working in the lab, there was an outbreak of Hepatitis C in a lab. in Edinburgh, 11 technicians were hospitalised, and 2 died.
We started wearing gloves when handling blood after that, and masks 2 years later after other outbreaks.

We were terribly casual in our attitudes to safety in the 70s.  In our lab we also ran tests for hormones found in pregnancies.  This was a test on urine, and used a combination of reagents and solvents that would make a health and safety analyst run away screaming.

Sulphuric Acid Burns
We used a mixture of Benzene(carcinogen) and Petroleum Ether(explosively flammable) initially, and this was evaporated (which meant the mixture vapours were in the air we breathed), the a solution of Quinole (carcinogen)in 50% Sulphuric Acid(very dangerous and corrosive) was added at 120 C, which then dumped acid vapours in the air.  Our lab coats, made of cotton fell apart in 4 weeks.  We wore gumboots, visors, rubber aprons and gloves.  The rubber aprons had to be replaced every 6 months.  Eventually the switched to a gentler enzymic method.  They didn't switch because it was a safer method, they changed because the actual structure of the building was becoming compromised by the acid leaching of the concrete.

Crumbling Acid-Leached Concrete
I mention all of these memories of my lab. work because I'm going to be having a blood test today.  It was supposed to be on strike day, but it was postponed.  This means that someone else will be organising any of the urgent relief cover in Nuova Lazio High.  I've carefully organised all I can, and everything is in readiness, but if someone phones in sick, then I'm not sure what's going to happen.  Probably they'll ask for volunteers amongst the staff.  If Ringo asks, you'll probably get an extended silence, if the good Fuhrermadchen asks, then most folk will probably offer their services.

I'm a bit apprehensive about going back to NLHS after the test, I hope everything will run smoothly, but you never know.

And then I've got to print out the final version of the reports for the DPs to peruse over the weekend.

What fun!


  1. "I'm a bit apprehensive about going back to NLHS after the test, I hope everything will run smoothly, but you never know."
    It'll run as smoothly as SSR*, when, to quote our previous principal, "The whole school will fall silent."
    Good luck with the test, my friend.

    *Sustained Silent Reading

  2. Fascinating. That explains why those P houses are so dangerous too?

  3. "That explains why those P houses are so dangerous too? "
    Well, similar. P labs normally accumulate

    Acetone. (Solvent)
    Methanol / Alcohol.(Isopropyl or Rubbing)
    Toluene. (Paint thinner or brake cleaner)
    Diethyl-Ether. (Engine Starter)>Sulphuric Acid. (Battery Acid)
    Hydrochloric Acid. (Spirts of Salt)
    Salt. (Table/rock)
    Lithium. (Batteries)
    Anhydrous Ammonia. (Farm Fertilizer)
    Sodium hydroxide. (Caustic soda)
    Red Phosphorus. (Matches/Road Flares)
    Sodium Acetate.
    Hypophosphorous Acid.
    Hydriodic Acid.
    Formic Acid.
    Phenylacetic Acid.

    Smell, expire, enjoy.

    Just don't under ANY circumstance, strike a match.


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