The University of Northumbria has apologised for an experiment on caffeine that went horribly wrong, after they were found to have given two students the equivalent of 300 cups of coffee each. A fine of £400,000 was slapped on the university for the “life-threatening” effects caused by the experiment blunder, the BBC reported.
Alex Rossetta and Luke Parkin, both sports science students, had volunteered to participate in a test to measure the effect of caffeine on on exercise. When the lab miscalculated their dosage, they ended up taking the equivalent of 300 cups of coffee. They were hospitalised and placed in intensive care for dialysis after the glitch led to violent side-effects.
The university pleaded guilty to the health and safety breach at a hearing last month.
At the Newcastle Crown Court, prosecutor Adam Farrer argued that such a dose “could easily have been fatal." In their defence, the university’s lawyer said the university wished to “emphasise that they take the welfare of their students and staff seriously." The university also told the court that it was “deeply, genuinely sorry” as it was fined £400,000.
A shot of espresso averages around 65mg of caffeine. During the sports science study in March 2015, the two students were given 30g, nearly 460 times the amount of caffeine in an espresso shot.
Only 0.3g, an amount ten times less than the amount given, was supposed to be given, said the prosecutor. He told the court that death had previously been reported after consumption of just 18g. Farrer went on to explain that the miscalculation had occurred because the university had recently switched from using caffeine tablets to powder for experiments.
“The staff were not experienced or competent enough and they had never done it on their own before,” he said. They had used a mobile phone to calculate the caffeine dosage, resulting in the decimal point being in the wrong place, he added, saying that no risk assessments had been made. “The university took no steps to make sure the staff knew how to do it.”
Both students have since recovered from the incident, though Rossetta reported short-term memory loss.
Study International Staff/Jan. 26, 2017
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