[Histonet] Pregnant in histo lab. Am I safe?

Ana Maluenda Ana.Maluenda at baker.edu.au
Sat Jan 18 20:38:21 CST 2020

Hi Valerie,

I don't know how it is in US, but in Australia what I did was to liaise with our Occupational Health and Safety Department to check which measurements they'd recommend about having pregnant workers around the lab.

My lab however is not heavily Histology and the tissue processing is done off-site, so the exposure to chemicals like Xylene and Formalin is not as much as probably for you as a Histotech. But regardless, they helped with general queries and PPE recommendations (especially fitting respirators).

Hope you find a good solution for both sides.

Kind regards,


Ana Maluenda
Research Assistant/Laboratory Manager
Atherothrombosis and Vascular Biology Laboratory

Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute
75 Commercial Road, Melbourne VIC 3004

From: Valerie Laughlin [histology400 at gmail.com]
Sent: Sunday, 19 January 2020 4:38 AM
To: Jessica Phillips; histonet at lists.utsouthwestern.edu
Subject: Re: [Histonet] Pregnant in histo lab. Am I safe?

Yes, going to HR might be my next step before I consider other options.
The supervisor bough a respirator with generic filters without knowing he
had to buy specific filters for xylene and formalin. We also have regular
latex gloves that are definitely not resistant to xylene. Xylene melts the
gloves away.

On Saturday, January 18, 2020, Jessica Phillips <msjessicaphillips at gmail.com>

> I think you need to go to HR and find out what your options are. In the
> meantime, you need a respirator, specifically with a filter for xylene and
> a separate filter for formalin. You will also need some xylene resistant
> gloves with the long cuffs.
> -Jess
> On Sat, Jan 18, 2020, 4:31 AM Valerie Laughlin via Histonet <
> histonet at lists.utsouthwestern.edu> wrote:
>> Hello everyone. I am currently in the last weeks of my first trimester of
>> my pregnancy.
>> I have asked this question to my Ob-Gyn, family and general pregnancy
>> forums but I wanted to ask people who understand the field of
>> Histotechnology better.
>> I have been very concerned about the side effects of the chemicals that
>> might have on my baby.  The lab works with the typical stuff
>> (formaldehyde,
>> xylene, alcohol of different percentages, glacial acetic acid, stains etc)
>> They make the fixative from scratch.
>> I had to inform my supervisor and manager. I didn’t get the most positive
>> reaction from them but I don’t care as this is my personal business and I
>> have rights like everybody else.
>> I gave them a letter from my doctor informing my pregnancy and that I
>> should be kept away from the chemicals for my own safety.
>> They acknowledged the letter but still decided to buy a respirator mask
>> for
>> me which is fine. It’s good to have protective equipment no matter the
>> circumstance.
>> I told them that I can do the same tasks I do every day such as grossing
>> but with a mask, embedding, cutting and filing but that I don’t feel
>> comfortable changing the chemicals of the tissue processor and slide
>> stainer, and mixing chemicals. Also that I can’t dump the chemicals in the
>> biohazard room as there is not enough ventilation.
>> Literally an hour after I informed this a nurse who was working in a rojom
>> close to the biohazard room had a negative reaction and had to be sent to
>> the ER where she was there for days. She blamed the chemicals  from the
>> biohazard room. Other nurses who work close to that room had reported
>> negative side effects as well. This situation made me more uncomfortable
>> specially when my coworkers think the nurses are over reacting and it has
>> to be some other cause because they don’t get the same reactions.
>> My biggest concern is that despite the letter of my doctor and what
>> ocurred
>> in the past weeks with the nurse I am still feeling pressured by my
>> coworkers to work with the chemicals as they feel that a mask, a lab coat
>> and gloves is enough protection. I am unsure about this.
>> I didn’t get a proper fit test for my respirator by the way. I have worked
>> for another corporation where they did that right after getting hired.
>> I have read that chemicals can be absorbed through the skin too.
>> I just want to know the opinion of pregnant  lab techs and supervisors who
>> have worked with them.
>> I have read older threads about this in this forum before and everybody
>> had
>> positive and negative experiences. Some workers were completely removed
>> from the lab while others kept performing the same tasks. Some say their
>> babies turned out healthy while others blame the job for causing short and
>> long term
>> health issues  for the babies.
>> Most of the employers protected the pregnant worker from the chemicals to
>> avoid any risks which I feel that’s the direction my employer should take.
>> There are 3 other histotechs in the lab and they don’t seem happy to have
>> that extra task in their hands, despite being the one who changed the
>> processor most of the time this past year besides the supervisor.
>> Thank you for your help. This has caused a lot of distress in me and I
>> just
>> want to be safe.
>> _______________________________________________
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>> Histonet at lists.utsouthwestern.edu
>> http://lists.utsouthwestern.edu/mailman/listinfo/histonet

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