Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bangles & Bacteria: Jewelry in the Lab

Exhibit A: As it turns out, Beyonce gave bad advice and you should, in fact, NOT put a ring on it. 

Being somewhat of an amazon woman, combined with working in a lab full of tiny Asian people, often leaves me with labcoats that don't quite measure up in the sleeve department. Recently, that small amount of skin between where your gloves end and your labcoat starts, perfectly framed my metal watch. This, of course, wasn't intentional, but being very busy with several experiments I didn't realize and a small amount of organic solvent splashed from my beaker, and landed squarely onto my skin and watch. There was the typical, "oh, well isn't that fabulous" sigh before I wiped the liquid away and rinsed off my arm. A few minutes later my skin started to itch and at first, I didn't think much of it. A few more minutes passed and my wrist started to burn, with increasing intensity. I looked down and noticed my wrist had turned bright red. I rushed to the sink and wash the area, removing all metal objects, then washing them again for good measure.  Bringing me to my point, what amount of jewelry is considered appropriate when working in bench science?  I wore the watch because I used it to time the different portions of my experiment, and the thought of wearing the timer around with me while I did other tasks didn't settle well (i.e. gross, other people have touched that!).

Exhibit B: We've all seen this PhD Comic, and know it's true. Who wants to accidently transport anything from this picture home? 

With the prospect of engagement in the near future, and my bling factor increasing from optional to expected, I was wondering how many people wear wedding rings while working at the bench? Does the use of gloves damage the ring in any way?

As a general rule, I tend not to wear anything that could dangle while working at the bench, mainly due to the sheer "grossness" factor of what those things might come in contact with. I mean honestly, who wants to find rodent parts on their scarf the next time they put it on. On that same note, no matter how cute a bracelet might be, it is infinitely less so when there is potential for it to be covered in pathogenic bacteria because you didn't watch your sleeves while working in the hood (see Exhibit C).

Exhibit C: Example of inappropriate accessories. Remember kids, bangles and bacteria don't mix. Ever. Period. 


  1. Generally, I don't wear jewlery in the lab. A few exceptions; earrings (not too long, most often studs), necklaces (same thing there, or tuck it in underneath my shirt) and I have stopped wearing a watch (since it's not waterproof...).

    Rings however... that's interesting. Mainly I would say that the ring (or more likely the stone) will be "dirty/damaged" by the powder in the gloves... it can be removed when cleaning the ring, but in the end; it's not the best treatment. Then again, the same thing goes for having it on when you clean house/wash dishes etc...

    My choice was fairly easy (when I was married) since I didn't have a stone in either my engagement ring nor my wedding band (partly tradition, partly choice) so I used it when I had gloves. That asid, I have a tendency to work a lot without gloves and use a lot of EtOH so then I wear nothing on my hands to be able to wash wash and wash some more :) Of course, that might have to do with "BSL2 microbes that I really don't want to spread".

    Do I win the longest ranty comment ever now? ;)

  2. We use powder-free latex in our lab, but I've noticed the gloves tend to rip right around where a stone is (if there is one). There doesn't seem to be many problems with bands or low set stones, but I'm curious if other people feel the same way. I was thinking it would gunk up or maybe loosen the stone too??

    I don't wear earrings but have the same kind of philosophy when it comes to lab attire as you seem to in that uncontrolled dangling = bad. That brings me to my next question of washing your hands with the ring on so frequently while in lab, is that good for it? We don't just use dial for the stuff we have in the lab and it's VERY drying. I also do like you do and ethanol my hands ALL THE TIME, for the same BSL2 rationale.

    I'm paranoid enough about contamination/ interactions with the metals, but I also don't want my engagement ring damaged or laced with virulent bacteria. The BF and I liked the idea of non-diamond stones, since I had done that before because I was supposed to, but always loved sapphires. I wonder if the type (aka hardness) of the stone also plays a role in long term consequences?

    Do you cover the "no dangle" policy when you train new people or is this something you hope people get on their own?

  3. This ring thing is my biggest issue! I mean, I wear necklaces that I tuck under my shirt and my earrings don't dangle so I'm good there but I have two rings that I wear all the time on my right hand and according to my fabulous mother I'm never to take them off so I don't know what to do. I don't want to ruin the stone or the metal or just be uncomfortable with the gloves. Ugh maybe I'll have to find some sort of chain I can attach them to while I work or something.

    Also, I hope people are logical enough to get the 'no dangle' policy without it being mentioned. But I guess you never know.

  4. Glad to know you visit! Does the grammar make your eye twitch yet? hehe.

    I don't think you've had problems with this, but if you're worried about it you could slip it through the necklace you wear. It's a good length so it would keep it protected from gunk and not result in the searing pain I had to endure. It's actually one of the graduate students that has me most worried about this .. plus the whole, thinking I lost a limb thing.

    I'm a little worried about what our "dilute" detergent would do to the metal too, it's more concentrated than normal hand soap and I use that to wash my hands too more than half the time. Might have to ask the jeweler if I ever get the ring in question that is!!!!

  5. hm, I wrote a long comment with references in it.... and saw it here... but now it's gone. Maybe I didn't see it? GAH.

  6. I got engaged after I'd already left the lab, but I've seen people put tape over their rings before putting gloves on.

  7. Hadn't thought of tape! I;m leaning more and more toward just slipping it onto a long necklace I can put inside my shirt. This would be easier if I knew for sure what my ring is going to look like. I narrowed it down to 4, but the BF picked from there, so I'm not sure. At least I took gloves into consideration and all of the rings I liked are very low profile.

    I didn't see another post last night, but I didn't check after 6PM here or so. Sorry! I love references!!

  8. This was one of the links I had:http://www.allaboutgemstones.com/jewelry_cleaning.html

    It states a few things about cleaning etc.

    as for me, I wrote that when I had my engagement and wedding rings, I never had to worry too much since I didn't have any stones in them (not tradition back home). And I did end up wearing them around my neck/necklace since I am bad with taking rings off when washing my hands... and then my skin underneath the ring gets wet and sad :(

    I think I would be wary of having a ring with stone and working with all our detergents and ethanol (especially depending on if it's not a diamond... accoring to the jewellry note).

    I have been thinking about this lately ;) (the ring and stone dilemma... although, for me right now it's more of a "I'm not sure about me having a stone and ring when he doesn't have any... but it's a little premature I'm sure :) )

    BTW, am I the only one thinking that photo isn't really a good one?!

  9. I've soaked my wedding ring in bleach before, but then again I'm a dude so it would only cost me like $100 to replace it.

  10. @Chall

    It's looking like I'm just going to avoid the potential disaster and wear it on a necklace when I'm at work.

    That's what the BF said too :)