Pregnancy during PhD: dealing with chemicals and advisor

posted
07-Feb-19, 20:59
by MyWorld
Avatar for MyWorld
posted about 2 months ago
Hi everyone,

I am a third year graduate student and I am pregnant. I do not know if anyone here has been through a pregnancy while doing her PhD, but I wanted to ask how your advisor react ti to that and if you still work facing chemicals that are dangerous for the pregnancy.
I have a lab partner that she is decided to help me with every chemical for me to avoid so she is being great to me, but my advisor still thinks that I can manage them under the hood.
I am going to talk with a guy from lab safety to make us clear what to avoid from the lab but I did not know if I should talk to him privately to just make sure that tells my advisor that I should avoid chemicals in every way because the hood does not protect us 100%. My advisor takes the pregnancy news pretty well but still seems that he does not understand how dangerous can be the exposure to certain chemicals (because security in the lab is not his thing in general...)
Does anyone here have a experience with being pregnant and dealing with dangerous chemicals? How the advisor react to it?

Thanks!!
posted
08-Feb-19, 18:42
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
There will be risks to your baby if you continue working in a lab-based environment. You need to stop worrying about tip-toeing around your supervisor and address this head on immediately and then you need to drive this forwards regardless of what your supervisor wants or thinks.
You don't have a choice I'm afraid.
posted
08-Feb-19, 20:29
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for newlease36
posted about 2 months ago
if a teacher at school was exposing you young child to chemicals that could adversely affect his/her development and health, would you be coming on a message board and asking if you should do anything about it?
You need to prioritize your child over PhD.
but it won't even come to that; It is definitely illegal to make someone work in conditions that would adversely affect their health.

but in the case you had no rights (which you do) and you could be forced to work in an environment that would adversely affect your child's health... would you still do it????

Like I honestly don't what your asking here? should I continue to work in environment that has the potential to harm my unborn child? not a difficult question to answer.
are there legal protections against making people work in unsafe environments? yes, obviously.

as for your adviser not understanding... he probably doesn't care enough to actually consider the consequences... you should, however. It is your responsibility.
posted
09-Feb-19, 09:54
edited about 53 seconds later
Avatar for Thesisfun
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From pm133:
There will be risks to your baby if you continue working in a lab-based environment.


There MAY be measurable risks!


Quote From newlease36:
i It is definitely illegal to make someone work in conditions that would adversely affect their health.



It is illegal to make anyone work in any conditions- that is slavery!!



Quote From newlease36:

but in the case you had no rights (which you do) and you could be forced to work in an environment that would adversely affect your child's health... would you still do it????

Like I honestly don't what your asking here? should I continue to work in environment that has the potential to harm my unborn child? not a difficult question to answer.


This hyperbole is unhelpful- everything job has potential risks, and individuals need to weigh up risks (once they have been reduced as far as possible) for themselves based on their individual values and circumstances. The employer/ university has a role in this as well. For example, an individual who had had recurrent miscarriages may view any risk as unacceptable (even if viewed as reasonable by others).


The sensible (and measured advice) advice is:

You need to ask for the Health and safety risk assessment. You need to flag your pregnancy health and safety adviser and seek advice.

No work place is without risk and there will always be unknown risks- key thing is about recognising known risks, and controlling them.

I doubt the supervisor is recklessly endangering the OP!

I doubt the OP is the first person in the lab to get pregnant- a risk assessment may have been done last time which identified that use of chemicals under a hood was acceptable.
posted
09-Feb-19, 13:21
edited about 3 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
I'm not sure that it will be much comfort to the OP to say that a H&S risk assessment said the lab was fine if something happens to her baby because she followed that advice.
For a start it's worth judging the calibre of university employee who is making that judgment.
I wouldn't trust anyone other than the parents to make a judgment when it comes to workplace safety.

If you are working in a chemical lab you are exposed to the potential for failing or badly maintained fumehood filters and the cleanliness of your fellow workers. I have worked in many chemical labs and I have never seen one which didn't have filthy glassware everywhere - most of it outside the fumehood. You can control some things in life but you cannot control the behaviour of others.

My advice to the OP stands. You MUST put your baby first because nobody else will prioritise it. Take no risks with chemical labs.

We are only talking about a few months of pregnancy here. She can always return to the lab at a later date. It's not worth the risk IMO.
posted
10-Feb-19, 23:48
Avatar for cloudofash
posted about 2 months ago
Hi,

congratulations!

It really depends what chemicals we are talking about i think. I would personally check all chemicals I am working with to see what the risks are.

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