Piranha solution explosions
Jan16

Piranha solution explosions

From the C&EN archives, but I believe still relevant today: April 23, 1990, page 2 SIR: We wish to report two violent explosions experienced with a sample of “piranha solution” used routinely in many laboratories to clean badly soiled glass frits and other surfaces. At Berkeley an explosion occurred in a bottle of this mixture that had been stored for several days. In this case, the solution was prepared by carefully...

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Lawsuits detail injuries from rainbow demonstration fire in New York school
Jan06

Lawsuits detail injuries from rainbow demonstration fire in New York school

Three lawsuits have now been filed by families of students injured a year ago when a New York high school teacher poured methanol from a gallon container during a “rainbow” flame test demonstration. New York Post stories about the lawsuits give some details of the students’ injuries: Alonzo Yanes suffered second- and third-degree burns on his body, head, face, neck, torso, and hands. “He’s horrifically scarred,...

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Solvent stills and fire repercussions
Dec16

Solvent stills and fire repercussions

I recently came across this 2002 letter regarding still safety and lab emergency preparation from William J. Evans of the University of California, Irvine. I thought it was worth sharing again for its lessons learned: As described in the article “Putting Safety First,” my laboratory suffered major losses on July 23, 2001, as a result of a fire originating with the malfunction of a solvent still (C&EN, May 20, page 43)....

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Typo may have led to radioactive material leak
Dec09

Typo may have led to radioactive material leak

On Feb. 14, radioactive material leaked from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant nuclear waste repository in New Mexico. The leak was traced to a drum containing a reactive mixture of nitrate salts, an acid neutralizer, and an organic, cellulose-based cat litter used as a sorbent. From an investigation by the Santa Fe New Mexican: In a damning report issued in October, the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General chided [Los...

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Bhopal, 30 years later
Dec04

Bhopal, 30 years later

Thirty years ago yesterday, a runaway reaction in a 15,000-gal methyl isocyanide isocyanate storage tank at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in a massive leak. The vapor, which is denser than air, blanketed an area of about 25 square miles. Hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to the gas and thousands of people died. The incident is widely considered to be the world’s worst industrial disaster....

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In memory of those who died, something to do in lab today
Dec01

In memory of those who died, something to do in lab today

From Derek Lowe, regarding the four DuPont workers who died from a methyl mercaptan leak two weeks ago (I would add, also, the many others who’ve died in laboratory accidents): So in memory of these four, here’s something that all of us who work in the lab can do today. Take a look around you. Remind yourself of where the fire extinguishers are (and there should be more than one kind). Think of how you’d get to the...

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