When is an explosion really an explosion
Aug05

When is an explosion really an explosion

A letter in this week’s issue of C&EN takes us to task on our word choices: I was disappointed to see the words “blast” and “explosion” used to describe the incidents at both Williams Cos. and at CF Industries in Louisiana (C&EN, June 24, page 5). Although both incidents involved fatalities, the CF Industries accident appears to have been caused by the rupture of a nitrogen line or vessel by overpressure. The mainstream...

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Behind the bench, storeroom managers and department coordinators play an important role in safety
Jul31

Behind the bench, storeroom managers and department coordinators play an important role in safety

By Russ Phifer Efforts to improve safety culture in chemical research laboratories generally focus on bench chemists, principle investigators, and laboratory managers. The backbone of these labs in both academic and industrial R&D, however, is frequently those working behind the scenes in positions such as storeroom managers or chemistry department “coordinators.” The professional organization for this group of people is the...

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Have a fireworks-safe Fourth of July
Jun28

Have a fireworks-safe Fourth of July

If your area is similar to mine, the fireworks vendors will be out this weekend. “Between June 22, 2012 and July 22, 2012, more than 5,000 consumers were treated in hospital emergency rooms due to fireworks-related injuries,” the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. “More than half of these reported injuries involved burns to the hands, head and face. About 1,000 reported injuries involved sparklers and bottle...

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Defining chemical safety, health, hygiene, and security
Mar27

Defining chemical safety, health, hygiene, and security

Last week, this question landed in my inbox: “What is the functional difference among chemical safety, chemical security, chemical health and chemical hygiene?” I assume that the person who e-mailed me is not the only one wondering about all those terms. Here are the definitions I put together with input from Larry Gibbs of Stanford University, Kimberly Jeskie of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Neal Langerman of...

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A case study: Possible hydrogen fluoride exposure
Aug01

A case study: Possible hydrogen fluoride exposure

How would you have handled this situation? Three chemists in a small laboratory were moving some old chemicals to a staging area prior to disposal. Many of the chemicals were simply unopened expired reagents, while others had been previously opened and used. After perhaps a half hour of moving chemicals, one of the workers complained of a severe burning sensation on the palm of his hand. When he removed his latex glove, his hand had...

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Museums and radioactive artifacts
Jun05

Museums and radioactive artifacts

Over at Artful Science today, my colleague Sarah Everts discusses how museums handle radioactive artifacts (hint: depending on the situation, items might get scrubbed of radioactive dust or chemically cleaned). And just what is your radiation exposure from using uranium oxide-loaded green glasses or orange Fiestaware bowls? Go...

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