Fatal poisoning with Hg(CH3)2
When pouring a small quantity into an NMR tube under the fume hood, a drop fell on her disposable latex glove. She sealed the tube with the cap and took off the gloves. After five months she noticed she was having problems with balance and speech. An examination revealed an extremely high content of mercury in her blood. Intensive medical treatment was unable to save her from a slow death due to the destruction of her central nervous system. She left behind a husband and two children as well as her remaining work group.
Investigation of the case showed that the supplied safety data sheets from the US contained no or incorrect details on hand protection (wear rubber gloves). However, the time it takes for the substance to break through disposable latex gloves is in the region of just a few seconds, and even rubber gloves are totally unsuitable. If this had been taken into account, this tragic case would have been avoided.
The BG RCI has therefore put together a data sheet on dimethylmercury in the GisChem hazardous substance database. As well as pointing out suitable protective gloves, it also details all essential protective measures necessary to work safely with dimethylmercury.
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