Three Florida students burned in flame test demo
May28

Three Florida students burned in flame test demo

Via the Tallahassee Democrat, an incident from last week: A chemistry experiment gone wrong injured three Lincoln High School students Friday morning. Leon County Emergency Medical Services responded to the call, along with the Tallahassee Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Office. Two students were admitted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with burns suffered during the incident, and another student was released to parental care. Both hospitalized students are in stable condition, confirmed Chris Petley, spokesman for Leon County Schools. A flame test being demonstrated by an experienced teacher during an AP chemistry class resulted in the accident. … The experiment is performed underneath a fume hood on a lab bench. A flammable solvent – in Friday’s accident it was alcohol – is used to ignite the flame. But it also creates the conditions for a flash fire. Once again: Here’s the safer way to do the demo, by soaking wooden applicators in salt...

Read More
Charges against Denver teacher dismissed
Apr13

Charges against Denver teacher dismissed

Last fall, a Denver teacher, Daniel Powell, was charged with four counts of misdemeanor assault after a classroom fire seriously burned a student. Powell had lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties, then tried to add more methanol from a 4 L container, Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board investigators said in September. The fire flashed back into the container, then jetted out to hit the student in the chest. Other students sitting nearby were also injured. The charges against Powell have been dropped, says Lynn Kimbrough, communications director for the Denver District Attorney‘s Office. “As the case moved forward, further review of the facts led the prosecutor to the conclusion that we did not a reasonable likelihood of conviction – and once that conclusion was reached we had an ethical obligation to dismiss the case,” Kimbrough says. A search for either the school’s or teacher’s names does not find any civil filings in state courts, says Rob McCallum, a public information officer for the Colorado Judicial...

Read More
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, wearing all sorts of protective clothing and a brace on his neck,” the family’s attorney, Jeffrey Bloom, told the Post. His parents are suing the city for $27 million. Julia Saltonstall suffered first- and second-degree burns to her arm, torso, and face. Her family is suing for $10 million. Sara Salitan has respiratory problems and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and crying fits. Court papers in this suit did not list a specific amount. h/t Chemjobber. For a safer flame test demonstration, use wooden applicators soaked in salt...

Read More
CSB recommends stricter controls for educational demos
Nov04

CSB recommends stricter controls for educational demos

The U.S. Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board released a report last week with “Key Lessons for Preventing Incidents from Flammable Chemicals in Educational Demonstrations.” When C&EN posted my story about the report on Friday, we said that 20 children and two adults had been injured in fires from educational demos since the start of September. As we posted the story, there was another incident, at a high school in Chicago: “The students were mixing chemicals in the chemistry lab to create a green flame when something went wrong and there was an explosion, police said.” That incident brings the injury count to 22 children and two adults. CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso would like educators to reconsider whether it is necessary to do demonstrations involving hazardous materials, he said at a press conference on Oct. 30. Here are a couple of papers that address that question (h/t Ralph Stuart, Keene State College chemical hygiene officer and ACS Division of Chemical Health & Safety secretary): “Chemical demonstrations: Learning theories suggest caution,” Michael Roadruck, J. Chem. Educ. 1993, DOI: 10.1021/ed070p1025 “The science and art of science demonstrations,” Thomas O’Brien, J. Chem. Educ. 1991, DOI: 10.1021/ed068p933 Updated to add: “Demonstrations and good pedagogy,” James Laughner, “Chemistry Solutions,” November 2014 If demonstrations really are necessary, then CSB recommends: Implement strict safety controls—written procedures, training, and personal protective equipment—when lab demonstrators are handling hazardous materials. Conduct a thorough hazard review before performing any activity with flammable chemicals. Avoid using bulk containers of flammable liquids in education demonstrations—separately dispense only the amount needed. Provide a safety barrier between any activity involving flammable chemicals and the audience. Although that doesn’t go far enough for Calais Weber, who was injured in a chemistry demo fire in 2006. “It is my belief that until there exists a standard mandatory protocol for training all science teachers, there is no reason for methanol to be used in classrooms. My education and love for chemistry was not fostered by seeing a demonstration in person, and it would not have been hindered by simply watching a video of it being performed in a controlled setting by trained chemists,” she said at the CSB press conference. The American Association of Chemistry Teachers has a webinar TODAY on teaching lab safety in the chemistry classroom. AACT members can also take Division of Chemical Health & Safety workshops at ACS national and regional meetings for the discounted price of...

Read More
Denver student hit in chest with jet of flaming methanol
Sep17

Denver student hit in chest with jet of flaming methanol

New incident, same message: Don’t pour alcohol anywhere near a possible flame. At a press briefing yesterday, Chemical Safety & Hazard Investigation Board investigators spoke about what they’ve learned so far regarding an incident at a Denver high school that sent four students to the hospital on Monday: The teacher lit a small pool of methanol to demonstrate its flame properties. When the flame didn’t rise as high as desired, he added more methanol from a 4 L container. The fire flashed back into the container, then emerged as a “jet fire” that traveled 15 ft to hit a student in the chest. That student was wearing a synthetic shirt and was seriously injured, others sitting nearby were also hurt. CSB investigators also spoke about the Sept. 3 incident involving a “tornado” demo at a Reno, Nev., museum that sent nine people to the hospital. CSB had previously released details on that one, which involved pouring methanol from a 4 L bottle onto what was likely a smoldering cotton ball. The only new information yesterday was that the demo normally involves three tornadoes in varying fuel/additive combinations to show different flame colors. Also, back when the museum started using the demo, demonstrators had left the 4 L bottle in another area, taking out to the demo table only the amount needed. “Out of convenience, over time, the 4 L container itself had started being used in the demonstration,” CSB inspector Mark Wingard said. “Instructors and teachers are just not aware of the flashback hazard of methanol,” CSB managing director Daniel Horowitz said. “Methanol has a flash point that’s pretty similar to gasoline. I think that if people knew that gallon containers of gasoline were being brought into classrooms right near flames, they would be horrified.” Here are stories I was able to turn up from roughly the past year either definitely were or sound like methanol fires: Sept. 9, 2013, in Frisco, Tex.: Two middle school students and a teacher were injured in a flash fire that arose from a flame test experiment involving methanol. Oct. 3, 2013, in Douglas County, Ga.: One student suffered burns on 25% of her body when, while doing a flame test experiment, “a flammable liquid dispensed from the container unexpectedly fast and ignited, involving a 12th grade female student and catching her on fire.” Nov. 12, 2013, in Avondale, Az.: Four students and a teacher were injured in a “flash explosion” that occurred during a flame test experiment. Nov. 25, 2013, in Chicago, Ill.: A high school student suffered second-degree burns on her hands and four other students were hospitalized when the teacher was doing a flame test...

Read More