14 April 2009

an unfortunate chemistry lesson


[ courtesy of bed-stuy banana ]

i'm always a fan of using my own photos when it comes to things like illustrating blogs, but in some cases, the photos taken by others are much more apt.

this sign, though, would be more accurate if it were posted on our school's laser cutter. the laser cutter is part of our rapid prototyping lab (RPL), cutting just about any sort of non-toxic material placed in its bed with...a laser. (tricky, huh.) it's been extremely useful for complex geometries or repetitive elements, although it's also been abused as the lazy person's way of automating a simple process. (i am guilty of this sometimes.)

but i digress. the real issue today was toxic fumes, emitted in the cutting process. we're allowed to cut plastics as long as they're plexi or acrylic, both of which are smelly yet still non-toxic (except in the state of california). so this morning around 4am, i thought what i was cutting was the usual acrylic and could do no harm.

wrong. the flames and purple-pink scorches told me plenty, so i stopped the machine and resorted to plan b for my pieces. but i had been exposed long enough to the fumes (hydrochloric acid), so later felt dizzy, with stinging eyes, a running nose, sore throat...the whole bit. i went to mit medical to check it out, and found that even the doctor on call had to look it up on wiki or something to figure out how to treat me. poison control's suggestion was for me to get some rest until things improve.

although i could've googled that advice on my own, it was still good to get everything checked out. i still ended up presenting my project for our midterm review later on (great timing), and although i'm feeling better than this morning, it's still not so good, so i believe i will go sleep. i think my friends somehow like saying i was poisoned - wouldn't go so far, but it's definitely taught all of us to:

1) read all labels and distrust the unlabeled,
2) actually take materials w/ toxic chemicals seriously

whew. ok, bed time.