By Tyler Irving
Posted July 2011
Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Division has called for new warnings about trimethylsilyldiazomethane (TMSD) after a chemist died following exposure to fumes.
Roland Daigle, a chemist at pharmaceutical company Sepracor Canada in Windsor, N.S., died in October 2008 after working with TMSD in a fumehood that had been shut down due to a renovation on the roof of the facility. Daigle, 46, developed breathing problems and died 18 hours later in a Halifax hospital. This past May, Sepracor Canada pleaded guilty to failing to provide proper ventilation and was fined $45,000 under Nova Scotia’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. The plea bargain resulted in the dropping of four other charges relating to providing personal protection equipment, training, and ensuring that the scene of the accident was secure.
TMSD is used as a methylating agent in organic synthesis and is often used in place of diazomethane, which is known to be harmful to lungs. “I think there was a false sense of security about using TMSD,” says Nancy Murphy, medical director of the IWK Regional Poison Centre in Halifax. “You read in the literature that it’s a safe alternative to diazomethane because it’s less explosive,” Murphy says. “But that says nothing about whether it’s safe for humans to use. It wasn’t really made clear in the material safety data sheets (MSDS) prior to this case that it was potentially fatal,” she adds. That has now changed, according to Jim LeBlanc, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Division of Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour. LeBlanc says that recommendations have been made to the global company Sigma-Aldrich, which produces the chemical in Ontario, to ensure its product carries the appropriate warning about “pulmonary edema [being] an effect of excessive exposure” in its MSDS.
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