Over the past few years, I’ve seen an increase in the fear of “exposure” to “harmful” and “dangerous” “chemicals.” I’m a synthetic chemist by training, so I’ve looked on with an amused eye at the dread some people have over a possible part per trillion exposure to a “dangerous” chemical.
I will say one thing: that fear of chemicals is misplaced.
You have a higher chance of getting hit by a car or struck by lightning (or seeing the French win a modern war without surrendering) than getting cancer from that one time you might have been exposed to a compound that is a suspected carcinogen.
Now, among most synthetic organic and inorganic chemists the black-humor joke is: “It’s not IF you get cancer, it’s WHEN.” Usually the WHEN never comes, and if cancer does develop, it’s usually unrelated to the chemicals you’ve been exposed to.
Besides, researchers STILL don’t know what actually causes cancer to “turn on.”
As an anecdote: I know second-hand of at least THREE old-school Professors that used to wash their hands with Benzene before eating/going to teach, and they’re still going strong into their late 70s.
So yeah, I doubt you’ll be able to tick off more than five on the below list (and these are all 99% pure, reagent grade stuff. So no counting your Mom’s/Sister’s/GF’s nail polish remover).
Stuff I’ve been exposed to in my lab career (short list):
Methylene chloride (and its deuterated version)
Chloroform (and its deuterated version)
Ethyl acetate (smells like apples)
Hydrochloric acid (HCl, fried the inside of my nose with its gas)
Hydrobromic acid (HBr)
[H(OEt)2][B[3,5-(CF3)2C6H3]4]− (Also known as HBArF)
Organics (short list of the short list, without dredging up my notebooks)
Dicyclopentadiene (and it’s monomer)
Various prepared phosphines
Various substituted benzenes (aldehydes, ethers, alcohols, alkyls, alkenyls, alkynyls, halogens, nitriles)
Butyl allene (smells like rotting meat)
Methylamine (gassed myself with this)
Potassium tetrachloroplatinate (red)
Mercury (actually fun to play with, just don’t breathe in the vapors)
Silica (for flash column chromatography)
Alumina (same as above)
dichloro(1,5-cyclooctadiene)platinum (white powder)
diiodo(1,5-cyclooctadiene)platinum (orange powder)
diethyl(1,5-cyclooctadiene)platinum (yellow oil)
Various piano-stool complexes from my undergrad research
Various Phosphine-Nitrogen ligand complexes with above-mentioned platinum complexes (sans 1,5-cyclooctadiene)
Methyl magnesium bromide
Ethyl magnesium bromide