Teaching Macho Researchers Some Respect

Handling ‘hot’ chemicals was one thing, but now comes the AIDS virus "Traditionally, most chemists have been macho," says Shane Que Hee, an occupational medicine specialist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "In laboratories—not the tidiest places in the world—you see volatile chemicals not in fume hoods. You see people not wearing gloves. I have even known chemists who washed their hands with benzene." That sort of cowboy swagger is fast falling ou

Susan Milius
May 29, 1988

Handling ‘hot’ chemicals was one thing, but now comes the AIDS virus

"Traditionally, most chemists have been macho," says Shane Que Hee, an occupational medicine specialist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. "In laboratories—not the tidiest places in the world—you see volatile chemicals not in fume hoods. You see people not wearing gloves. I have even known chemists who washed their hands with benzene."

That sort of cowboy swagger is fast falling out of step with the reality of modern research, particularly for people who work with human tissue or fluids. Chemists, thanks to the boom in biochemistry and biomedicine, are increasingly likely to have serious or casual encounters with biological materials. So today, if real men don’t wear gloves, real men might get AIDS.

To encourage safer lab practices, Que Hee organized a symposium for the American Chemical Society’s 3rd Chemical Congress of North America in Toronto...