Re: [Histonet] Formalin on skin`

From:Pamela Marcum

At 10:29 AM 5/24/2006, Madary, Joseph wrote:
>It is my understanding that formalin hardened the skin of the person who
>"discovered" it in pathology.  After many years of exposure, bare-handed
>the effects on the skin were such....
>I spent 16 yrs at AFIP and I remember in the 70's these bone folks who
>used large dishes to fix and stain would stick their entire arm in NBF
>and xylene.  And yes the one I speak of smoked over the containers and
>did die of cancer.
>Histonet mailing list

Unfortunately when some of us started in histology in 60s and 70s some of 
the pathologists were not aware of issues either.  My first pathologist 
advised that if one had paraffin all over your hands the solution was to 
clean them with xylenes.  Later I had a department chair who had his lab 
(in the late 70s) using amyl acetate to clear brain tissue and following 
with benzene.  As if this was not enough the lab used Paraplast Plus with 
DMSO in a 50/50 mix for the first infiltration steps.  The DMSO just helped 
get more fumes into the lungs and mucosal linings with the old style open 
tissue processor.  His histologists all had contact dermatitis and constant 
coughing.  Our lab refused to use this procedure and developed a method for 
whole brains using butanol as the clearing agent.  It was not only safer 
(in the scheme of things) we lost very few brains due to over hardening or 
sections as it was gentler and easier to use.  So we have all those stories 
we all lived through and now can only hope the exposures are or won't kill 
us soon.

I know when I lecture and talk about these things younger people can't 
believe it happened.  We have the right to know now and unfortunately not 
everyone takes advantage and reads the MSDSs sheets that come with the 
products they use daily.  We did not know back then because no one was 
looking at safety the way we do now.  Today there is not excuse not to know 
between the companies and the Internet.  I know people who feel after all 
the exposure they have had why worry now.  The last line of you reply says 
it all.  It is never to late to be safe.

PS  I still can't coverslip with gloves on and I have tried for years.

Best Regards,

Pamela A Marcum
Manager, Histology Special Procedures
University of Pennsylvania
School of Veterinary Medicine
R.S. Reynolds Jr.  CORL
New Bolton Center
382 West Street Road
Kennett Square, PA 19348

Phone - 610-925-6278
Fax     - 610-925-8120
E-mail - 

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