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Illumina Inc. Message Board

  • tonyczar tonyczar Mar 19, 2004 7:31 PM Flag

    URGENT: Formamide is a teratogen

    A message for all Illumina employees: It has come to my attention that concentrated solutions of formamide are being stored on benchtops without ventilation or respirator systems. IT IS CRITICAL THAT YOU NOT PLACE YOURSELF IN THIS ENVIRONMENT. Formamide is a known human toxin; more importantly, it is known to cause birth defects in laboratory animals and all relevant governmental agencies require that it be regarded as likely to cause human birth defects as well. This is not an exaggerated warning. While no one should be exposed to formamide vapor without appropriate protection, it is especially urgent that no women of child-bearing age work in such an environment.

    The way I came to know of this problem is minor compared to the human cost of remaining silent about it. Illumina management was unmoved by my own criticisms of labwork during my tenure as CSO, and I expect this is still the case. However, should you fall ill as a result of formamide or other chemical exposure, I believe that no one at the company will step up to take responsibility. You can not expect your boss to do what is in your best interest, even in the extreme case of allowing you to work in a chemically toxic lab.

    This is the only way I feel confident that employees at the company are guaranteed to hear this urgent warning. If anyone wishes to contact me, my email address is: I will keep all such communications in strictest confidence.

    Tony Czarnik

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    • Tony,

      I would like a copy of transcript as well.

    • Hey Tony, you sure have lit up the board! Ya know the sopranos is my favorite T.V show.
      Sometimes ya gotta do whats ya gotta do.

    • Tony,
      Could you send me the court transcript?

    • Dear Bored: I would be happy to talk for hours with you and anyone else who cares to hear about my suit against Illumina. There is only one good reason to raise a claim of discrimination- because it happened. When the ledger is complete in my case, I would have made more money accepting Jay Flatley's severance offer than taking the enormous risk of going to court. I realized that back in May of 2000. But that would have meant accepting a world in which illegal actions can be 'washed away' with only money. I can't live in a world like that.

      I would have preferred to see the people responsible serve prison time, but learned via the process that the only remedy available to me was money. I would take the prison option today if it was offered. But illegal discrimination is only a civil matter, not a criminal matter.

      If you really care to learn about the events that led to my tough decision to sue, call me. I'll talk your ear off. Want to read the trial transcript, so that you can learn everything the jury learned? It's a public document; send me your email address, and I'll send you the transcript.

      My decision not to accept illegal treatment and to file the suit was an agonizing one, and one that guaranteed a certain amount of ostracism. At the end of the day, if you want to change the world in the direction you'd like to see it go, you have to stand up alone and speak truth to power. They don't much like it. But a boss is not a King, nor a Master. He or she has power, but only that power afforded them by the Law we all must abide by... and which, believe me, management is not afraid to wield whenever in its own interests.

      As for the company, I would be more concerned by the fact that ILMN will be six years old next month, and had to include projected 2004 revenues in 2003 to achieve a (modest) $10 million 4th quarter that the 10-K has already warned will not likely be repeated in the first quarter of 2004. The $9 million ILMN will end up paying me (more, if they choose to appeal to the CA and US Supreme Courts) cannot bring the company down; the court required ILMN to put it in escrow back in 2000. It's money the company has effectively already paid. The jury imposed $5 million of it by unanimous decision in an effort to get ILMN management to think twice before breaking the law again. These were 12 people who had absolutely no vested stake in who won or lost this court battle. One definition of 'chutzpah' is the willingness to try and spin a unanimous, unfavorable jury verdict.

      If the cost of fighting the good fight is losing a few fair-weather friends, well..... I have a lot of other friends come fair weather or foul.

      "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul?" I only wish I could claim authorship.


    • I don't get it Tony. If you really care about Illumina employees why don't you drop your lawsuit? They've worked hard to build a company that you're trying to destroy. It seems to me that getting depressed is not an excuse for doing a lousy job and should not be protection against getting fired. How did you get the jury to buy that one? I guess you always have to look out for number one, huh? Just don't pretend to be intrested in the employees welfare you greedy ba$#trd

    • Thanks, beadarray. I'm just trying to do here what I hope any responsible Ph.D. chemist would do for their Associate- help educate them about dangerous substances they will be working with. The fact that I know many of these people at ILMN simply makes it an even more urgent matter for me. Allowing young, unsophisticated technicians to work in a toxic environment just because a management team doesn't want to spend the money for a hood- that's simply a disgrace. I guess we'll see if it's also a criminal offense. I know from experience that the management team at ILMN won't "do the right thing" unless it hits them where their soul lives... their wallets.

    • Tony Soprano is more like it.

    • I am satisfied that Tony is the chemist he claims to be.

    • By the way, some chemists out there are thinking that, because of amide resonance, nitrogen should be sp2 and oxygen sp3. This is a topic of current debate. Wiberg has performed high-level calculations (yes, I'm skeptical of the method too) that reveal no change in the C-O bond length upon amide rotation ( He argues that the empirically observed restriction to amide bond rotation is not explainable in Valence Bond ("resonance") terms, but is only explainable in MO terms. To the best of my knowledge, the results of these calculations have not yet been verified by experiment, but I believe in waves and in molecular orbitals.


    • Alma: No, that would be Dr. David Barker. Arnold (whom I have never met) effectively replaced Dr. Mark Chee.


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