Student HOSPITALISED After Metal POISONING
A doctoral student is currently in hospital being treated for heavy metal poisoning with the Chemistry building suspected as the source. Chemistry buildings 30 and 30a are currently closed for […]
A doctoral student is currently in hospital being treated for heavy metal poisoning with the Chemistry building suspected as the source.
Chemistry buildings 30 and 30a are currently closed for the foreseeable future, however, the connected building 29 also has no entry signs on its doors. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) are investigating the incident, while Hampshire Constabulary are carrying out their own investigations.
One Tab reporter who was on the scene when they cordoned off the building told us:
I tried to ask the security guard who had his campus security van parked outside what was going on but he just rudely told me to go away. There were lots of people inside the building and a few outside looking incredibly worried.
The Tab has learnt that the unnamed student is currently being treated in a specialist toxicology unit at a hospital in Cardiff primarily for thallium but also for arsenic poisoning. Thallium is a suspected carcinogen in humans and many thallium compounds are readily absorbed through the skin. Symptoms of thallium poisoning include the loss of hair and damage to fingernails. Luckily, the antidote to thallium poisoning, Prussian Blue, is well known and the student’s life will not be in danger
The metal is used in infrared detectors, nuclear medicine and in the electronics industry. The University of Southampton’s Chemistry department is heavily involved in medical and biological chemistry research which may require the use of thallium.
Hampshire Fire and Rescue service are investigating a student house in Burgess Road for contamination.
In the press release, the University are claiming that this is an isolated case, although it is offering students and staff that work in the lab thallium screening. In a subsequent update they stated:
This is an isolated case and may not even be linked to the University. As soon as we have successfully completed our risk assessment procedures we will re-open the buildings.
The University is keeping staff and students who work in the Chemistry department regularly updated with information from the relevant agencies. The Soton Tab will bring more on this story as it develops.