Fay, C. et al.
Workplace Health and Safety Inspector Dana Tait raised concerns that a university laboratory has improper microwaving policies after finding a note on the microwave that asked people not to reheat aromatic hydrocarbons, a known carcinogen.
“We all share this space, please be respectful to others,” begins the passive aggressive note. “Do NOT use the microwave to reheat strong-smelling items like fish, curry or aromatic hydrocarbons.”
Tait was especially concerned that the chemists were confusing the homonym aromatic, which has a completely different meaning in chemistry terms.
“In organic chemistry, aromatic means a ring shaped molecule with pi bonds, not necessarily something that has an aroma,” Tait explained, “but as chemists, they should know that… right?”
“Not using break room microwaves to reheat particularly odorous leftovers has been a long-standing protocol in many workplaces,” continued Tait, “so the inclusion of ‘aromatic hydrocarbons’ implies the issue was mostly due to their strong smell, and not the extremely high risk of cancer.”
Despite it raising concerns, Tait has no issues with the policy set out in the note.
“I mean, yes, you should not heat things like benzene or toluene in a machine used for food preparation. That’s good practice. I can’t argue with that. It’s just that… it should go without saying? So why did they have to say it? Did someone try this? I’m worried someone tried this.”
A technician at the lab, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed the existence of the note and noted that it was being completely ignored by staff due to the fact it was written in comic sans.