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Plastic labware screwing up results

2008-11-12 14:15:20.635753+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Wired Science blog reports on an article in Science about plastic lab gear contaminating lab results:

The additives are used to prevent static buildup, reduce stickiness and eliminate bacterial colonization. But many have been shown to interact with proteins, and to leach from food containers into their contents. Holt's team is just the first to quantify this in a laboratory context — and in labs, where researchers can use thousands of pipettes and other disposable tools in a day, there's no way to avoid plastic.

"Interpretation of data is being complicated by these issues, to the extent that it seems possible that incorrect conclusions have been made based on 'contaminated' data, and that such conclusions have been published," wrote Holt and his colleagues. "Our progress ... is being hampered and costing more than it should."

Extrapolation of possible impacts on use of similar plastics for food preparation are left as an exercise to the paranoid reader, but when we re-work our plumbing I'm leaning towards copper.

[ related topics: Food ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-11-12 15:28:22.982542+00 by: ebradway

I always wonder if "plastics" in this context includes Lexan like Nalgene products. Some articles about BHPs in baby bottles also featured pictures of Nalgene bottles.

Another good reason to go copper in your plumbing is that PVC is amazingly toxic when it burns.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-11-12 17:15:49.436473+00 by: Dan Lyke

I believe that PEX is also now approved for use in California residential construction.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-11-12 17:57:42.168812+00 by: meuon

In all cases, I've learned that having a high grade water filter at the sink finds me enjoying a lot more water with meals as well as in between meals.

I like copper plumbing and I'm good at putting it together. Use an Oxy/Acetylene or MAPP torch and high grade silver solder (expensive, but worth it) and sandpaper those joints, use white paste flux... and you'll get plumbing that is both extremely functional, beautiful, and will last forever.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-11-12 19:04:09.254043+00 by: Dan Lyke

Meuon, what sink based water filters are you using? We have an Aquasana hooked to the faucet, but I'd love to put in something more robust under the counter. My parents have a whole house chlorination through carbon tower, and then further do reverse osmosis for the drinking taps, but they're also dealing with gnarlier water than we are. On the other hand, Charlene would love a whole-house carbon filter, if just to take any last trace of the treatment chemicals out of the shower water.

(Yes, I did grow up on some amazingly good well water, and though I've adapted to drink municipal water, and ours is actually pretty good, there's definitely a flavor to the stuff that's been processed.)

And, yeah, knock on wood, but I've run some pretty complex copper setups with the only leaks at the screw fittings. Flux and tin well, sweat gently, don't let the solder flow down inside the pipe, I actually find that MAPP is too hot, that propane heats the joint just fine without making this so warm that all the solder runs out of the joint.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-11-13 10:43:33.536706+00 by: DaveP

Huh. I'm surprised (and probably shouldn't be) just how far labs have transitioned from working with (borosilicate) glass. And heck, even that isn't completely inert.

At work, in order to save plastic, they gave us metal "drinking bottles" we're supposed to refill from the water cooler. Downside is that they impart an aluminum flavor to the water that I notice. I'm still searching for a good drinking bottle. And drinking my water in the office out of throwaway plastic. Sigh.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-11-13 11:52:09.054629+00 by: John Anderson

DaveP, one of the bigger uses of plastic disposables back when I was doing bench biology (several years ago now) was for work with radioactive isotopes -- much easier to use a plastic pipet and trash it. And then the lazier people in the lab just started using the plastics all the time, of course...