• Question: What jobs can i do involving chemistry though i am asthmatic and struggle breathing sometimes during experiments?

    Asked by Ellie to Rob, Imad, Hannah, Fern, Christian, Carol on 11 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: Rob Ives

      Rob Ives answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      Hi Ellie,

      In a laboratory environment, exactly the same jobs as everyone else. Health and safety means the workplace needs to be appropriate for people to work safely. Where I work (GSK – a major pharma company), even low risk work with chemicals tends to be carried out within special cabinets which prevent the scientist from being in direct contact with chemicals, fumes, vapours, liquids, etc. Everyone is expected to wear protective clothing when working with chemicals or biological, including lab coat, gloves, respiratory face mask, special footwear, etc. My beard stops face masks from fitting me properly, so I wear a special hood which filters all the air I breathe (it’s lovely, clean, nice and cool). Lots of people wear these hoods, so you are no different to anyone else.

      Aim for what you want to achieve Ellie and don’t let your asthma limit your ambition.

    • Photo: Carol Wallace

      Carol Wallace answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      in the lab, all risk is assessed and managed for individuals.
      anything nasty/dangerous/hazardous would be done in fume hoods/flow hoods or in other protected areas.
      if your asthma is controlled well, i don’t think that’d be a major issue

    • Photo: Imad Ouachan

      Imad Ouachan answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      Ellie I agree with both Rob and Carol’s points. Nothing should stop you from doing what you want to do in the lab as long as you can safely manage it.

      If you feel as if the lab isn’t for you there always alternatives, not scientist works with in in the type of lab you would usually think of. Chemists also work on modelling how reactions take place on computers trying to find drugs that could potentially be a beneficial drug.There are also chemists that work out in the field monitoring the environment.

      There are loads of options involving chemistry!

    • Photo: Fern Johnson

      Fern Johnson answered on 12 Jun 2019:

      Rob, Carol and Imad all make great points, your asthma shouldn’t stop you considering a career in Chemistry. From sixth form/college any experiments involving nasty gases should be carried out in fume hoods that get rid of them. They might not have those at your school, perhaps are other ways that your asthma can be helped, such as opening windows in the classroom or working near a window. With illnesses it’s a good idea to keep track of what is triggering your asthma – is it when you’re in a specific classroom, or working with a specific chemical? If you have an idea of what sets you off it’s easier to be extra careful. It might be worth going to your doctor and talking about your asthma if it is effecting your activities – I have asthma and mine has changed in severity over my life, I’ve changed inhalers a few times and my asthma is well controlled because of this.