Between school and university, with a shiny new chemistry A-level under my belt, I spent the summer working in an industrial lab. As the lowest of the low, my jobs were those that no one else wanted to do. Our lab’s role was testing incoming raw materials at a plant that specialised in fatty acids. The worst job was, without doubt, being ‘lumper bumper’ - a nickname of uncertain origin for going out in all weathers and climbing up on top of chemical tankers to take samples of the hot contents. At best this meant handling sweet-smelling cocoa nut oil… and at worst, reeking tallow. After these excursions, the sampling equipment joined the endless piles of dirty labware that were also my responsibility. And that’s where I got my introduction to carbon tetrachloride.
Take a listen to my Royal Society of Chemistry podcast on carbon tetrachloride's bumpy ride as a solvent, cleaner and dangerous substance. Click here to listen.