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article imageWarning: Do not try this at home, or at school!

By W. Mark Dendy     Jan 5, 2014 in Science
New York - Warnings and safety precautions are everywhere. Many save lives. But some come to late or are not disseminated far and wide enough.
The latter is the case of a school chemistry experiment that was the focus of a federal warning. Distribution of the warning fell short.
According to the New York Times, a chemistry experiment, simply called the rainbow experiment, "sent a plume of fire across a Manhattan high school science lab, engulfing two students and leaving one with life-threatening burns."
The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) had released a video titled "After the Rainbow" warning against the potential dangers of the high school chemistry lab exercise just two weeks prior to this latest accident.
Methanol is a highly flammable compound.
Methanol is a highly flammable compound.
The experiment which uses methanol as an accelerant to burn different minerals to create a rainbow of colors was conducted by a young science teacher reportedly known for her "safety consciousness."
Methanol is a highly flammable compound that produces vapors that are easily ignited.
What happened at the Manhattan school that left one student with first degree burns and another with second degree burns to his face and head is not all so uncommon. Similar accidents had occurred at a Texas middle school and a Seattle high school. But the report by the CSB does not call for prohibition of the experiment in middle and secondary schools, it simply warns against the dangers.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency makes safety recommendations but does not issue citations or levy fines.
The video became available on-line Dec. 10, 2013 on the CSB's website. Although there are 60,000 subscribers to the agency's media site, the CSB has no mechanism to distribute safety videos and messages to individual science instructors.
And, sadly, two more students have been seriously injured, and a science teacher and her class traumatized.
More about School, Chemistry, Experiment, Rainbow, Dangerous
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