Unsafe Science



ACROSS THE COUNTRY, students in school science classrooms and other laboratory settings are being burned and injured when accidents occur during science demonstrations.


Over the last 15 years, according to media accounts, scores of students have been injured or burned in dozens of these demonstrations; the actual number of incidents, as well as the number of students injured, are likely much higher. Many of the injured students suffer second- and third-degree burns on their faces and upper bodies. The burn injuries are very painful, the recovery is long and agonizing over many months or years, and victims can be scarred physically and mentally for life.


Last September, for example, 13 people, most of them children, were injured during a science demonstration at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno, Nevada. Authorities and museum officials said that a mixture of methyl alcohol and boric acid—components of a routine exhibition conducted daily that creates a whirling “fire tornado” effect—exploded in a flash fire, burning viewers on their hands, arms, and faces.


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