Re: [Histonet] Re: 70% from NBF

From:Bryan Llewellyn

Talking about chloroform use in the past.  I trained as a lab tech in the 
early 60s, and the hospital where I did histology specialist training in 
London used chloroform exclusively.  The pathologist apparently thought that 
xylene made tissues too brittle.  I have many times dunked my hand in a 
litre container of it to get a block out.  You wouldn't believe how much it 
stings, apparently by slightly defatting the skin!  I was told this after I 
had done it a few times, of course.

We not only used chloroform without any safety concerns at all, but we also 
redistilled it to save money.  We had an upright, water cooled still with a 
Liebig type condensor.  It was heated with an electrical coil in a sand 
bath, which surrounded a 2 litre round bottom flask.  There was no automatic 
cut off for the electricity, and we had to keep an eye on it and switch it 
off when the flask was almost empty.  Of course, being a very attentive 
teenager at the time I missed it more often than not.  This was usually 
announced by a disgusting smell and billows of white smoke.  I was never 
sure whether the smoke was burning fat and stuff, or phosgene, which is 
produced from chloroform.  For those not aware, phosgene is one of the gases 
used during World War II as a nerve gas.

I have often wondered whether I became a histotech because I was born 
strange, or whether I became strange because of the time I spent training in 
a place like that!

Bryan Llewellyn

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gayle Callis" 
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2005 8:23 AM
Subject: [Histonet] Re: 70% from NBF

> Joseph made some excellent points here
> Chloroform is an excellent clearing agent (used it back in the 60's in 
> open dip and dunk processors - O.K. so I'm old!) but no one warned us 
> about its carcinogenic nature and there were no safety issue regulations 
> then.  Take his advice! 

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