Re: [Histonet] alcohol lamps

From:Victor Tobias

What a coincidence that it happened 100 years later in Chicago, can't 
blame it on the cow this time.


Victor Tobias
Clinical Applications Analyst
University of Washington Medical Center
Dept of Pathology Room BB220
1959 NE Pacific
Seattle, WA 98195
206-598-7659 Fax
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Jackie M O'Connor wrote:
> In 1971 in Chicago, there was a fire in a histology lab in Chicago because 
> of an alcohol lamp.   The ignited lamp was knocked off the bench, fell to 
> the floor, jar broke, all the spilled alcohol was ignited over a large 
> area which went on to ignite another open container of another flammable 
> on the floor (cleaning xylene, I think).   A terrible fire resulted.  Two 
> techs were badly burned, since there was only one door to the lab, they 
> had to run through the fire to get out (lab was on the 9th floor).   I 
> don't know who they were, or how they are now - but I was the technician 
> who went to work there after the fire. 
> Jackie O'
> Sent by:
> 07/28/2008 01:29 PM
> To
> cc
> Subject
> [Histonet] alcohol lamps
> Dan,
>     About ten years ago, in setting up a new histology laboratory, 
> management, techs, pathologists and I had this discussion.  Safety 
> regulations require no open flames in a laboratory area due to the 
> explosion capabilities as well as the fire hazards.  I had already told 
> the techs we would not be using the alcohol lamps and we did not install 
> gas lines in the new facility build out.  This was already determined by 
> the pathology group before the building commenced. 
>    There were 2-3 older techs (like me) who preferred to use the flames to 
> clear the forceps of contamination from tissue and paraffin before 
> embedding a new block.  Yes, it is faster, however, very dangerous.  i, 
> too had done it for millenimum as you w/o risk.  Management thought they 
> would get on the good side of the techs and surprise them with alcohol 
> burners.  I discovered this before the techs came in and removed the 
> alcohol lamps.  Thank goodness, the head pathologist backed me up.  As a 
> post-doc he had a horrific personal experience in having an alcohol lamp 
> ignite his lab coat when he accidentally brushed his sleeve across it.  He 
> understood the implications of the open flame in the lab.  Also, where 
> there  are alcohols,  xylenes or other similar flammable solvents around, 
> the vapors could accidentally build up to create an easily combustible 
> situation.  So, the techs learned to use lots of Kim Wipes on the forceps 
> before placing them in the warmers and to use Q-tips to k
> eep the warmers clear of tissue pieces that could contaminate a block. 
> And, over time, it really does not slow you down that much in the 
> embedding process.
>     It is a change to not use the alcohol burners; however, the safety 
> benefits far outweigh the hazards imposed by the open flame.  And, as is 
> often the case, the embedding person may be the only one in the laboratory 
> EARLY in the morning and no one would know there was a fire until it might 
> be too late.
> Sharon Osborn, BS, HT(ASCP) C
> Lab Vision
> Fremont, CA
> Date: Mon, 28 Jul 2008 11:21:28 -0500
> From: "Peterson, Dan" <>
> Subject: [Histonet] Alcohol lamps
> To: 
> Message-ID: <328CBAE62F31C642B422970E879DFADC01A80301@pcwex01>
> Content-Type: text/plain;                charset="us-ascii"
> Fellow Histonetters,
> I am in disagreement with our lab's Safety officer with regards to
> alcohol lamps. We use them in our embedding area to keep our forceps
> clean.
> The officer says that they're a fire hazard (even though we've used them
> without incident for over 30 yrs). There are no flammable reagents
> (other than the alcohol in the lamp) near the embedding area. I know we
> could use the warming wells on the embedders, but try to find more that
> 1 pair of forceps that you like, or better yet, try to find a forceps
> that the tech before hasn't left paraffin all over it. (Yes, I am a
> fussy old goat, 27 yrs of Histo, with my 1 favorite pair that NOBODY
> touches)
> Petty issue? Are there others out there using lamps? I am willing to
> change if necessary (or so ordered), but would like to hear from those
> who do the work, not be told what to do by those who know nothing of the
> work. Thanks in advance!!
> Daniel R Peterson HT(ASCP)
> Histopathology Section Head
> Meriter Laboratories
> (608)-417-6557
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