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Few Lab-Safety Studies Focus On Schools

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Laboratory safety has been the subject of numerous research studies. Most of the studies, however, have focused more on university and industry practices.

One project that examines some aspects of safety in secondary-school science laboratories was initiated last year by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (csps). According to Abby I. Gerber, a researcher with the commission, researchers worked through the agency's field offices, concentrating their efforts on four areas:

Which chemicals are most com-monly used in secondary-school science labs?

What methods of personal protection are used in science laboratories?

What methods are used to dispose of the chemicals?

What additional information on lab safety would be helpful to science teachers?

Possible uses for the information, Ms. Gerber said, could include a manual or wall chart for secondary-school science personnel.

The project may continue for another year. Personal characteristics also figure into lab safety, according to Dr. Joan Martin, a psychiatrist in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington.

Although she has conducted no investigations specifically of high-school labs, she said that most research suggests that, in general, younger persons are more likely to have accidents in labs than are older persons.

Persons under 21 have the highest accident rates, she added, and males of all ages have more lab accidents than females.

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