ADVICE ON HOW TO BABYPROOF YOUR MOLECULAR GENETICS LABORATORY
One of the first things that a newborn experiences is not necessarily the warmth and scent of the mother’s embrace, but rather a series of pokes and pricks to ascertain health and mental alertness. It therefore seems to me that a natural progression of this trend is to incorporate the highest medical predictive technology into an infant’s normal surroundings. In other words, it seems obvious to me that sooner or later everyone will have their own molecular genetics lab in their household – most likely adjoining the kitchen.
But, of course, with this new standard of living, steps must be taken to ensure the safety of the child. As a result, I’d like to take a moment and share some of the babyproofing tips that have worked in my household.
Thankfully, most of the up to date laboratories rely mostly on sterile plastic ware, so danger due to broken glassware is generally not an issue. As a bonus, your child will likely learn the word “centrifuge” at a remarkably early age.
Preferably, all chemicals should be stored in a place that is safely out of reach to prying hands. However, if this is not possible, there should be active steps to label the chemicals according to their hazard level. Color-coding does not work unless the child is at least 2 years of age and capable of identifying colors. In fact, we found that the most effective way of labeling is to adhere Disney characters correlating scariness to relative toxicity. For instance, a picture of Thumper would work well with Sodium Bicarbonate, whereas a picture of scary ass Ursula (from the Little Mermaid) would work well with Arsenic compounds. WARNING: do not use pictures of Goofy as infant responses vary greatly.
Playing with fire is dangerous at any age, but especially more so in the presence of highly flammable liquids like ethanol and methanol. Although normally kept safely behind the doors of special non-flammable metal cabinets, this is still a problem area since most of your child’s fridge magnets will reside here as well. What worked well for us was to take our child’s favorite stuffed toy at their earliest impressionable age (about 4 to 6 months), douse it in one of these solutions, and set flame to it. A bit hardcore, but it worked.
The radioactive area is tricky since it usually incorporates two common pieces of equipment that are extremely attractive to youngsters. These are, of course, the Geiger counter (has a handle, buttons, makes a loud beeping noise, and has a detector that looks remarkably like a microphone), and various sheets of radioactive shielding (great for forts!). My advice is to provide duplicates so that the child can play happily with the non-contaminated versions. EXTRA TIP: get a Geiger counter with a mute option – trust me, you will thank me later.
Really now. If you’ve read the definition of “biohazard” carefully, you’d have already realized that your child’s front and back end are part of this category. It’s almost as if the whole lab can be your diaper changing area, which in my opinion is wonderfully convenient. Score one for technology.