Is combustible dust a concern for research labs?
Sep16

Is combustible dust a concern for research labs?

In last week’s exploding pianos post, the experiments focused on the addition of flour to a theatrical “flash pot.” How important the flour was to the ensuing explosion was never resolved. Flour is, in fact, a combustible material–along with sugar, grains, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, and metals. The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board has been...

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CSB warns against using methanol in classroom or lab demos
Sep15

CSB warns against using methanol in classroom or lab demos

Following up on the flash fire during a “tornado” demo in a Nevada museum, the U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board released a statement today containing details of the incident and warning against using methanol in combustion demonstrations. CSB investigators responded to the museum fire, and their description of what happened confirms what the Associated Press reported: Our investigative team determined...

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David Snyder pled no contest to all charges in UC Davis explosives case
Sep12

David Snyder pled no contest to all charges in UC Davis explosives case

Former University of California, Davis postdoctoral chemist David Snyder was headed to trial next month on 17 explosives, hazardous waste, and firearms charges stemming from a 2013 explosion in his campus apartment. At a hearing today that was supposed to deal with legal motions prior to an Oct. 20 trial start, Snyder pled no contest to all of the charges, according to an update from the Yolo County District Attorney’s office:...

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Chemical safety for teachers webinar next week
Sep11

Chemical safety for teachers webinar next week

Just a quick post to spread the word that the American Association of Chemistry Teachers is holding a webinar on Tuesday, Sept. 16, from 7-8 pm Eastern on “Chemical Safety for Teachers”: Join professor and chemical safety expert Sammye Sigmann as she discusses laboratory standards, stockroom management, and answers your questions about safety in the chemistry classroom. Register...

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Unintended consequences: Exploding pianos
Sep10

Unintended consequences: Exploding pianos

From Periodic Videos, an old story about pianos, theatrical “flash pots,” and flour. “It was a really dumb idea,” says Martyn Poliakoff, a chemistry professor at the University of...

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Legacy samples yield headaches
Sep09

Legacy samples yield headaches

Several safety breaches involving pathogens have brought attention to the problem of legacy samples. Vials of smallpox dating to the 1950s were discovered in unsecured Food & Drug Administation labs on the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Md., earlier this summer. Then, last week, the Washington Post reported that NIH workers found ricin, the bacteria that cause plague, and other so-called “select...

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Tornado simulation results in methanol fire, children burned
Sep08

Tornado simulation results in methanol fire, children burned

Take-home message (again): Don’t pour alcohol anywhere near a possible flame. Last week, a flash fire at the Discovery Museum in Reno, Nev., sent two adult and seven children to a local hospital for burns and smoke inhalation. The demo that led to the fire was a tornado simulation, in which a colored flame is rotated in a mesh container to create a whirling effect. The details of what happened are still a bit unclear, but it...

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Academic lab safety: One chemist’s observations
Aug28

Academic lab safety: One chemist’s observations

Contributed by Brenna Arlyce Brown, who received her PhD in chemistry in 2013 and is currently working in business development for a research funding organization. She is working on setting up a safety consulting business. A few weeks ago, when reading about the deal that prosecutors made with University of California, Los Angeles, chemistry professor Patrick Harran regarding the lab fire that led to researcher Sheharbano Sangji’s...

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