Friday, January 27, 2017

I Hate It When This Happens

Oops! Decimal points matter:
Two British students were nearly killed after they were accidentally given caffeine equivalent to 300 cups of coffee during a science experiment.

Northumbria University has been fined pounds 400,000 ($660,000) for the incident in March 2015 which caused Alex Rossetto and Luke Parkin to be rushed to hospital and put on dialysis. On Wednesday, a judge said the two sports science students probably only survived because they were fit and active young men.
 That had to taste really nasty.

The second-year students had volunteered to take part in a test aimed at measuring the effect of caffeine on exercise, but a basic calculation error meant they were given 100 times the correct dosage. Prosecutor Adam Farrer told Newcastle Crown Court that the pair should have been given 0.01 oz (0.3 g) of caffeine in an orange juice mix, but were in fact given 1.05oz (30 g). There is 0.003 oz (0.1 g) in the average cup of coffee.

The court heard the calculation had been done on a mobile phone, with the decimal point being put in the wrong place, and that no risk assessment had been made for the test.

Farrer said the amount of caffeine consumed “could easily have been fatal” and death has previously been reported after consumption of just 18 g. He added the students were left in a “life-threatening condition”.
Having been the boss of an analytical chemistry lab, I know these mistakes are more common than you might think, although 1 to 1000 mistakes are the general rule due to the confusion between milli and micro. One time a tech made a Se standard 1000 X too strong, and generated enough poison selenide gas drive us all out of the lab. When people are being dosed, though, you can't be too careful. I'm glad the kids are OK.

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