There’s a reason you’re told to wear safety goggles at all times:
Tomi J. Adeyemi ’15 was at Eleganza’s date auction at Cambridge Queen’s Head at 8:40 p.m. on Tuesday night when her eyes started to turn red.
“I thought, ‘Okay, this will fade,’” she recalls.
At the time, she figured she was just tired, or at worst, that she had pink eye. She decided that if she woke up the next morning with “crusty” eyes, she would go to CVS to buy some eye drops.
But at 1 a.m., after she had returned to her suite in Grays Hall to go to sleep, her eyes started hurting.
“I thought, ‘Pink eye doesn’t hurt like this. Something’s wrong.’”
By 4 a.m., experiencing “unbearable” pain and “blurry” vision, Adeyemi and her roommate rushed to Harvard University Hospital Services urgent care…
When Adeyemi and Cheng walked into Urgent Care at 4:15 a.m., the nurses at the front desk appeared to know why Adeyemi had come and asked if she had been in Life and Physical Sciences A: “Foundational Chemistry and Biology” lab that afternoon. She told them yes. The nurses told her that “this had happened to a lot of kids” and that “it had been happening all night.”
Adeyemi was one of about five students who were exposed to ultraviolet light in LPSA lab on Tuesday while not using the proper eye protection. As a result, they suffered from what Adeyemi was told may have been “thermal retinal burn from UV radiation,” a condition that includes symptoms of eye redness, pain, and blurry vision.
Put the lid down when staring at the transilluminator:
The transilluminator emits UV light, but the printed instructions for the lab made no mention of the need to use safety goggles or to view the gel through a clear protective screen. It is unclear whether verbal instructions regarding safety procedures were issued to the students…
“As soon as you walk in, it’s the rule that you have to put on goggles,” Julia B. Hyman ’15 says.
But that afternoon, three days before the end of fall semester classes, Adeyemi says that “everyone was in a lazy kind of mood.”
“It was last-lab fever,” Hyman adds.
“In my mind, I was like, ‘oh, we’re not working with fire or chemicals, so it should be okay.’” Adeyemi recalls.
But while Cheng and Hyman say that the transilluminator that they were working had the protective screen pressed down on the sample, Adeyemi says that in some stations in her section, the protective screen was not always pushed down.
As a result, she and several other students without goggles gazed at their samples with no barrier to block the ultraviolet light emanating from the transilluminator.
Even smart people can be very stupid…