Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Is chemical education being cramped by current safety regulations?

sparkgap - 7-4-2005 at 01:30

Due to some points brought up in this thread, I now ask the titular question.

Post your positions on the debate also.

sparky (^_^)

I am a fish - 7-4-2005 at 02:56

This topic asks a specific and very relevant question about the practice of chemistry. Therefore, I'm moving it from Whimsy to Miscellaneous.

I agree that health and safety regulations have become ridiculous. I wouldn't be surprised if mixing baking-soda and vinegar is banned in the next few years.

sparkgap - 7-4-2005 at 03:06

And what, pray tell, would be the "wanker excuse" for banning the mixing of two chemicals used quite frequently in the kitchen? :o

sparky (^_^)

Pyrovus - 7-4-2005 at 03:52

I'm sure there's plenty of excuses they can find:

- contribution to the Greenhouse Effect.
- someone might mix so much baking soda and vinegar together that they suffocate from all the CO2 produced.
- baking soda can be used to make sodium carbonate which can be used to make sodium percarbonate which can be used to make hydrogen peroxide which can be used to make acetone peroxide which can be used to make bombs.
- the reaction of bicarb of soda and vinegar produces the deadly chemical dihydrogen monoxide.
- bicarb of soda can be used by drug dealers to bake cakes which contain marijuana.
- vinegar is an ACID!
- if you were to spill a bicarb of soda/vinegar reaction mix on something electrical, you would be in danger of being electrocuted.
- baking soda can be converted to sodium carbonate and used to make soap. Soap is a slippery substance, and is thereby capable of causing severe injuries.
- some of the atoms in both the bicarb of soda and the vinegar will be radioactive. Hence it is entirely possible to contract cancer as a result of handling them.

cyclonite4 - 7-4-2005 at 04:54

Generally this is more of a debate than a poll, but it goes almost without saying that chemical education is indeed cramped by 'safety' regulations. :(

LMAO @ pyrovus, the funniest (and sadest) thing is, that if banning NaHCO3 and vinegar was to be voted by the people, they would believe all that shit. Can you just imagine: A terrorist could buy 1000000 kg of NaHCO3, and produce enough CO2 from that to cover an area in a cloud of deadly CO2. :o

I actually think acetone may get the 'thumbs-down' one day, like alot of other solvents did, because of AP and many other compounds that can be synthesised with it. :(

Silentnite - 7-4-2005 at 05:32

I think it would be very very easy to ban any teaching of chemistry in classes simpy due to an event that Pyrovus mentioned.

:o:oDiHydrogen Monoxide:o:o

California almost banned styrofoam cups because of that website. I have fooled numerous people into wanting to ban it and keep it away from our innocent children. They were about to write angry letters to baby food manufacturer's for using it in their baby food products.

When someone doesn't know anything on a topic, the general public will accept something that everyone says. One news story by Barbara walters on some hillbilly redneck who lost their kid to Dihydrogen monoxide, or a kid to a vinegar and baking soda bomb and there goes chemistry.

Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide now!

Eclectic - 7-4-2005 at 05:37

sparkgap - 7-4-2005 at 05:55

To those who voted or who will be voting no, speak; I am quite interested in your reasons as to why you think so. :)

I ask for a "wanker excuse", Pyrovus, and I get this. Man, those bureaucrats are the barrel-bottom ones if they believe that sort of reasoning!!! That, is to say, very funny indeed. :D

sparky (^_^)

Isn't it the truth

jetfuel - 7-4-2005 at 08:38

There was a time when it was possible to by small quantities of just about any chemical, but due to the governments paronoia that you are either making drugs (entrapeneurship) sp. or making explosives (might turn out like the revolutionary war (U.S.) because of freedons being taken away. The power hungry, greedy bastards don't want to take the chance that they might lose their stranglehold on the average individual, they now make any chemical that can possibly be made into either of the substances previously mentioned, illegal for the amature scientist to obtain:mad

Sergei_Eisenstein - 7-4-2005 at 11:03

The chemist of tomorrow has a protective suite and never exceeds the fmol level when doing innovative chemical research.

Can I have a bottle of acetone please?

Magpie - 7-4-2005 at 12:04

Pyrovus and Sergei - you guys are damn funny! ;)

I can't speak for high school chemistry as I am way too far removed, but I can comment on college level. I've noticed that the experiments are trending toward those with less harsh conditions such as let's extract caffeine from tea rather than make caffeine from an intermediate. Also, I know one experiment was abandoned which demonstrated an important stereochemical effect (exo vs endo)because a drop of elemental mercury would be produced as a waste product! We were asked to "pretend" that we had done the experiment and then draw conclusions.

I fear that someday (not long from now) chemlabs will be replaced with virtual labs via the wonders of the computer - now wouldn't that be just too much fun. :(

kyanite - 7-4-2005 at 12:55

Even here in Canada the situation is pretty bad. In a lab where we test for different gasses(H2, CO2, O2), the acid(HCl) was diluted to .1 mol/L. They say they had a reason to because someone tried to see what it tasted like:o

Edit: Actually, some people shouldn't even be allowed near a toaster. Last year the same guy brought to school some mercury and was playing with it in class....

[Edited on 7-4-2005 by kyanite]

frogfot - 7-4-2005 at 12:59

I voted no, if I understood the poll question right that is..

By education you mean in shools/highshools/unis. Then IMO experiments done there have not much to do with safety regulations. It's question about what's relevant to do..
First, school experiments are mostly based on the budget, and they include the most basic things one should know when moving on to the more advanced chemistry.
Oh and come on, it wouldn't be a good idea to do really dangerous experiments in school.. like making sodium from electrolysis of molten NaOH... This would certainly increase death rate of pupils.. Not worth this even if there 0,1% of people that are interested in these types of experiments.

As for university, at least here, if dangerous routes are the most convenient way then it can be used.. Can't come up of many examples, but I heard not so long ago some dude in our uni used phosgene (as intermediate) in a project.
Another thing, I'm still amazed that we could make nitrogen triiodide in basic chem class... :o

Anyway, uni chemistry goes more and more into bio chemistry (more courses in that field appear) and many of bio chem reactions aren't that dangerous to perform. But this have not much to do with any safety regulation (well a little). They just wan't to advance from non organic chem to bio chem.

EDIT: Btw, in org chem courses we got to use bunch of fun things (may be considered as dangerous..) that are probably irreplaceable in demonstrations of some basic reaction mechanisms.. Just some that come to mind are LiAlH4 in reductions and halogenated compounds (some was lachrymators)...

[Edited on 7-4-2005 by frogfot]

[Edited on 7-4-2005 by frogfot]

Safety to the nth degree

FloridaAlchemist - 7-4-2005 at 16:07

I work in a college lab and notice more safety regulations all the time.
For example all the organic macro methods are now done in microscale...
because of waste disposal concerns..
The other day I was told to remove all mercury thermometers from all the chem labs and replace them with alcohol thermometers. Every week is something else:mad: The dean of the college wants to get rid of the chem labs and use Virtual labs.:P

runlabrun - 7-4-2005 at 16:10

ok frogfot....
Well i see the point about the budget... i am the one who has to figure out what to buy at my school so it does get really hard, that is quite a valid point... but the fact that safety concerns are restricting chemistry classes is of more importance and validity than budget. I have enough money in the budget to buy what i want, so why cant i? if its in the best interest of the students anyway....

But kids in my class get so bored with the normal textbook reactions, if i was able to give them something extra, something unique it would cement in their minds alot more efficiently and probably spark some extra-curricular interest in chemistry instead of just having to do what the teacher says cause otherwise we will get bad marks.
I dont mean sparking interest in class, students usually just do this so you think they are into the topic and you leave them alone, i mean genuine interest, get them to develop a passion for knowledge... ie what im paid to do.... and its just becoming harder each time one more of these god damn regulations come out and further restrict the avenues i have to do my job efficiently....

After all, its your tax dollars that pay the teachers... so why restrict them so you get less bang for your buck?


Scratch- - 7-4-2005 at 17:34

Voted 'No'.

I think that it is the schools' responsability to keep their students safe. I have not seen any unreasonable reactions to slightly dangerous chemicals (yet). I got a fair demonstraition of what I learned in the lecture. It wasn't the most interesting thing in the world (Except the student that cracked his crucible and spilled burning magnesium ribbon everywhere). It isnt the teachers job to make your life interesting, if they have demonstraited the lesson well enough you should (With a few things from the store) be able to have fun with what you learned. It might be because my classes are free (Duel-enrollment) and I had a good chemistry lab instructor.

I do, however, think the majority of the peoples phobias about chemistry are completly irrational and the media isnt helping. Somone should be able to do just about whatever he wants to in his own home as long as it doesnt affect those around him (as in, dumping dangerous chemicals, selling drugs, using chemicals to damage property that isnt yours, injuring animals, etc.)

[Edited on 4/8/2005 by Scratch-]

cyclonite4 - 7-4-2005 at 17:41

-Some call Dihydrogen Monoxide the "Invisible Killer"
-Others think dihydrogen monoxide should be Banned
-Dihydrogen Monoxide is linked to gun violence
-Dihydrogen monoxide was found at every recent school shooting
-Athletes use DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE, or DHMO, to enhance performance
-Dihydrogen Monoxide has been found in our rivers, lakes, oceans and streams
-Dihydrogen Monoxide is a major component of acid rain
-Thousands die each year after inhaling dihydrogen monoxide
-Dihydrogen Monoxide can be deadly

- It damn well ought to be banned! Look at all the damage it can do.
- Guns don't kill people, DHMO does.
- DHMO is solely responsible for the columbine shootings.
- DHMO is a drug used by cheating athletes
- Chemical plants have been dumping it in our water supplies and natrual aquatic environments.
- The large output of DHMO into the atmosphere is responsible for acid rain.
- The large output also infects our air.
- Above all that, it's highly toxic, imagine the LD50 of it!

I guess we are all going to need gas masks and water filters. How can the government let this happen! It's unethical, evil, barbaric! Let's all go protest to have DHMO banned, regulated, and have all traces of it removed from earth!

Silentnite - 7-4-2005 at 17:52

A water filter for DHMO?? Um... But what about DHMO Gas?? Scalding to think about...

It is the school's responsibility to keep the students safe, but not entirely. Why is it that we pass all the blame from a dumbass onto a well-meaning teacher?? Until we decrease class sizes then you can't have an effective watch over the entire class.

I think I am quite able to conduct chemistry experiments and not depart too greatly. Course I also tear-gassed my house accidently, so there you have it...

Chemistry and all such science's benefit GREATLY from examples. I have a teacher right now who's idea of teaching is to give us the book, and fill out a form with answers straight out of the book. He doesn't lecture, just sits there and says no talking, and no using the computers. Do you think I am learning anything?? All the information is there... But I am still not learning. A subject needs to be actively taught, and you can't just lecture, studies have shown that some of us are visual learners and won't grasp a concept without good solid examples.

BromicAcid - 7-4-2005 at 19:35

As I think I have said before, all the halogens at my high school were removed by the fire martial before I left. In addition all the mercury was taken away and all oxidizing agents (which included the concentrated sulfuric acid :() Along with poisonous reagents. In college there was a strong feeling of repression on some of the reagents we used, the lab classes used things that would normally not be considered toxic and if they were toxic they would be used in small amounts or pipetted/measured by the teacher.

All that suddenly went out the window when I started taking advanced synthesis classes, suddenly I had access to all the benzene, carbon tet, thionyl chloride, sodium borohydride, I could want, it was strange. Plus I get to order chems now, like 2-chloroethyl ether, I mean, it came in a metal cylinder, inside of which it was wrapped in a thick cloth, under which it was in a vacuum sealed pouch, inside of that was a plastic container, filled with something like kitty litter and inside of that was the bottle, and it had a top that had to be removed with a can opener under the lid. It was just strange that suddenly all regulations were removed, we even have dimethyl mercury if we want it for some odd reason. Overall though I would have to agree that teaching of chemistry is being hindered by regulations regarding health and safety.

And I'm getting sick of this DHMO joke that's been going on and on and on :P

Chris The Great - 7-4-2005 at 20:57

I said yes, because I do think that safety regulations are starting to cut back on education. I have never seen anything dangerous at my school, the hydrochloric acid seems to be "ultra super dangerous" at about a concentration of 3M. The way the teachers talk about it, especially in the non-smart people (I mean, non honours) classes, is like it's boiling caro's acid or something.

Of course, this is why we do stuff at home.

Darkblade48 - 7-4-2005 at 21:38

I voted yes, let me tell you a little story....

When I was in high school, our rules were rather slack, and this caused a lot of kewls to be born (sigh). For one of our labs, we were to investigate what happened when certain metals were placed in water (Lithium, sodium, potassium, and the like).

The teacher warned us to take samples no larger than a cm^3 at most. Did that stop the kewls? No.

They proceed to take a HUGE chunk of sodium, throw it in the water, and surprise surprise, it caught on fire. Now the kewl "leader" had the brilliant idea to try and put out the blowing on it....with his head over the fire.

Needless to say, it exploded.

*end story*

After that, the metals were distributed by the teachers, and that was pretty much the end of any kind of lab experiment for the rest of the year.

However, I do remember that in my final year of high school, I got to work with 12M HCl, but that was under extreme supervision (i.e. the teacher stood by the HDPE dispenser and pretty much filled it up for us).

All in all, it's partly the laws, but also the acts of several foolish individuals that's giving chemistry a bad name.

sparkgap - 7-4-2005 at 22:46

Replies first.


Have fun with the chloroethyl ether! Just keep in mind to treat this potential carcinogen (and valuable intermediate) with respect.


I second your point regarding the visuals. Not everyone is blessed with an active imagination. It is also my personal belief that chemistry is a science best learned by example. Books can only do so much...



"'s your tax dollars that pay the teachers... so why restrict them so you get less bang for your buck..."

Well said. :) I cannot express this point of yours more lucidly.


Biochemistry isn't exactly "safe" either. Ethidium bromide (DNA intercalator, potential carcinogen) and acrylamide (irritant, lachrymator, potent toxin and carcinogen) come to mind as some of the "dangerous" chemicals commonly used in biochemistry...

Comrade Sergei:

Chemistry in the femtomole range?! :o What the hell can we only observe then?
At those amounts, I don't think we'd even need masks/gloves anymore; not like any chemical can do significant damage at femtomole concentrations...

I will now proceed to state my position. We can't dictate how our reagents will behave in a given situation. What we can only do is to cope with how they behave, and modify our protocol accordingly. It will always happen that some point in time, we may have to use a toxic/corrosive/energetic/blah material with no known alternative. Quoting a cliché, "with great power comes great responsibility". :P Now, as it applies to us, I believe that any chemical can be used as long as the proper precautions are taken, and proper disposal is done. I just think that current regulations are needlessly strict, and that chemical education will be an unwilling victim if current trends continue. I believe it will be good for pedagogy that those new to this be trained in the art of handling dangerous materials competently. (Of course, the nature of the chemicals to be handled should depend on how far they have forayed the field, e.g. beginners should not be handling Caro's acid.)

sparky (^_^)

[Edited on 8-4-2005 by sparkgap]

vulture - 8-4-2005 at 00:35

As long as the government allows the people to smoke, light fires in their backyards and allows painters to dump solvents straight into the sewers, they shouldn't fucking whine about "safety" in labs.

sparkgap - 8-4-2005 at 00:48

But they do, don't they... As a matter of fact, companies are free to dump their waste en masse into the environment as long as they pay the "appropriate dues"... :(

Now they try to restrict access to chemicals in the pedagogical setting. I'm starting to believe the premise that the government fears that making the people more knowlegeable in chemistry and other sciences might bring on repercussions for them.

sparky (^_^)

P.S. Just read the book "Trust Us, We're Experts". As soon as I get a decent scanner, this will be one of the first things I will be uploading to the FTP.

frogfot - 8-4-2005 at 02:50

Spark, heh, acrylamide was probably the only dangerous thing we've used in bio chem class. I'm not much into bio chem, but it seems that generally it requires less harch conditions than usual chemistry. Where corrosive/toxic solvents/reagents are not used that frequently, again, generally that is.

Dunno how it is in our high school now (was not that long ago actually), but we could use things like conc H2SO4 and HNO3 and so on.. Then there was some projects that one could make anytime, with minor supervision. Basically, one could do experiments as long as someone else is in the lab (this is the same in labs of most chem companies).
Reactions that was involved (in HS labs that is) was mostly inorganics. Where one had to estimate concentrations of things.. mostly titration experiments basically. I thoat it was fun and educational.
Heh, once we had to make a continious booze "reactor" with yeast balls in a column, where one could measure CO2 evolution rate. That was fun :P

I did a little conclusion that safety regulation use depends on where in the education chain you are (..crap, dunno if I expressed this right)..

runlabrun - 8-4-2005 at 17:51

Scratch -
its not a teachers job to make your education interesting? o....k....
So what IS my job? please educate me i woudlnt have the slightest idea.
All throughout uni we are taught methods of making our provided education interesting so it is more appealing to the variance in student type in the class....
So what about the kids who are interested but are hands on learners? the simple mundane pracs just dont cut it for them, they need explicit demonstrations, they need to get in there and do it, explore each aspect.
Are you leaving them behind? restricting them from an education just because you dont want to put in the minute amount of effort it takes to make a topic interesting and exciting? Nice teacher you would make....

Me? I make every class, pracs or book work as exciting as i can, that way when my students come to the test they can remember the cool things i did to help them remember it inrstead of going "oh yeh that was that boring day in science...."

Remember, teachers are far more than educators, we dont just shovel information out to you.... thats what a LECTURER does... teachers do far far more.


Scratch- - 9-4-2005 at 19:59

You misunderstood me. If a student can't boil water without getting third degree burns then the teacher shouldn't be held responsable. I'm not saying we shouldn't have hazardous demonstrations. I'm saying that the teacher's first responsability is to his or her classes safety. You can do dangerous reactions safely, and it doesnt have to be dangerous to be interesting. But again, the teacher isnt there to entertain you, the teacher is there to make you understand. If you want to do a dangerous or more interesting or different reaction the teacher should be able to help you do it safely without the whole class destracting him/her. Sure, everyone likes interesting stuff, but you shouldn't put people at risk just to make their lives more interesting.

My chemistry labs were interesting enough, and hands on enough (And I am a hands on learner) that I know enough to start doing chemistry as a hobby, which is much more interesting. I am glad that I took chemistry and I would be even if the labs were boring because now I can do what I want to do. The chemistry labs are usually (At least where I am) open to the students who don't have axcess to chemicals or labware. I don't know about safety regulations but when I took my labs I didn't notice any irrational safety precautions.

This is just what I think from what I have seen, I'm not trying to insult anyone. If you think what I'm saying is wrong then I will be happy to debate it.

unionised - 10-4-2005 at 04:01

I live across the pond, so my outlook might be a bit different.

is a copy of the legistlation that forbids me driving while drunk. Its the real legislation on the government's website.

Can someone find me a similar piece of law that would forbid me doing, for example, the thermite reaction, as a classroom experiment?
UK or USA law would do me as an example.

If not, then you can't blame the safety regulations and the answer to the question is "no".

[Edited on 10-4-2005 by unionised]

FBI - 10-4-2005 at 05:15

You children need to study these articles carefully. Read it and weep!

neutrino - 10-4-2005 at 06:25

There is no law about these things per se, but you still can't do them. I believe that they are prohibited by the people lower down in the chain: principals, superintendents, etc. The way these things seem to work is that an existing law, say "no killing students", is interpreted to mean, "no (pseudo)dangerous materials anywhere near schools". The laws are what we interpret them as.

I’ll admit I know little about this level of bureaucracy, so feel free to correct my theory.


MadHatter - 10-4-2005 at 08:43

Neutrino, it's true that the people above the teachers are primarily responsible for the
limited use of chemicals. They're worried about getting sued by lawyers.

Magpie, you mentioned a "virtual" chem lab. I'm glad I had a "hands on" chem teacher
in high school. I count myself among the lucky ones. Virtual labs won't cut it - especially
for a pyro like me.

uber luminal - 10-4-2005 at 17:00

this should represent US, HS education with reg's. 2nd ed and uni's run a little different.

I think your looking at this the wrong way... there are these organizations which prohibit a lot of chemicals or materials from going into schools or in general, entities over a certain size. OSHA regulations is in place for teachers (they are workers) OSHA regulations in place for the public (students) in these 'work places'. there are DNR rules which prohibit the generation of certain Haz Waste etc. There is another organization which regulates materials safety, but I cant remember its name. And of course public schools MUST follow these rules since they are bodies of the State. Private schools, which are ussualy smaller in size get a little more freedoms, but most of the freedoms come from the local side. There are also Supt. rules (since they would ultimatly be concerned with student safety(and money haha), Principal rules, budget rules (most people do not realize schools must put money into certain accounts, and only money from the asigned accounts can be used on the things they are asigned to. (so people bitch when there is money to put carpet into the office area's, but the chemistry labs don't have heating plates or something.) But its the dumb way that works. (the only way around that, is to get someone smart on school boards, but that never seems to happen)
Then there are teacher rules... there are some things teacher just don't want to do for safety or whatever. There are also limitations on ventalation (back to OSHA). If you want to throw a penny into HNO3 to show students something interesting, you need a place for the NO2 to go, and it needs to be somewhere which will filter the haz waste (back to DNR). The biggest sticker though isnt the rules. Its the fricken budget I mentioned. Its a tricky issue since it costs money to buy chemicals, ship chemicals(sometimes it costs as much to ship the crap as the actual chemical), store the chemicals and if you let the chemicals expire, you have to PAY to get rid of them correctly (DNR and OSHA again). Have you ever gone to there are other chemicals suppliers too, but regardless, this stuffs expensive considering you need to put money into other things in the science budget.

Yes, I agree however, that it is very difficult for science teachers to find demo's and activities which capture the attention of students AND allow them to draw correlations in science. from the education standards, the teacher needs to teach how to observe relevent data and make speculations. This can be done on paper. but... err..this is not very interesting to people who are trying to learn science esp chemistry or physics (which is initialy difficult to teach). So demos , labs and hands on are great, only the students also need to be safe in the realms of common sense.

*skipping common sense with safety arguments*

Overall, I vote no. I personaly feel that safety is not enforced enough. The ones who are really interested (and smart) find ways to be safe and get around regulations.

I suspect that there may be dumb rules which make extreme cases for this question, but can you list some examples of things which regulations ban? (be location specific)

Silentnite - 10-4-2005 at 18:46

The ones who are really interested (and smart) find ways to be safe and get around regulations.

So for those of us who wouldn't have looked twice at chemistry because its all numbers and stoichometric ratios and avogadro's numbers and moles and dry and boring should not be allowed to enjoy chemistry? I had one class like that and it was my first one. I dreaded taking the next years class. More numbers and such I thought. Thank $Diety that I had a different teacher who thought to give examples, and have us help and do experiments and hands on equipment. From that class alone there were at least 10 converts.;)

And Disregarding getting new people interested. Why should the interested ones have to do it at home? Its safer in the lab is it not?

The only reason there is a budget problem is that if elsewhere is anything like my school, 99% of the budget went towards our loosing sports teams. Education no longer matters just the sports.

Quantum - 10-4-2005 at 19:43


I think it is safer doing chemistry at home; it just happens that often what people do at home is very dangerous! At my house I at least have good gloves, a face shield and goggles and soon a good gas mask. I also don't have to deal with dumbasses that can't record data and slow me down(god damn I had to deal with so much stupidity last year)

As too learning chemistry work put into it is what you get out of it. Sure learning such detail about orbitals and sigma bonds is hard work - makes stoich look like a piece of cake. But that beautiful, perfect control over matter is so there! I know Im getting closer every day. Closer to that understanding in my mind giving me absolute power. Make any drug, synth any poison, produce any color, destroy anything and create everything. Chemistry is the central science and every hardship is worth it. To have that level of control is intoxicating. Read Perfume by Suskind and change perfume to chemicals, odor to organic and smell to science. Don't think Im going to try to distill any virgins however:P

unionised - 12-4-2005 at 09:39

FBI said
"You children need to study these articles carefully. Read it and weep!

I had a look at the articles.
Do you mind if I smile rather than weep?
Here in the UK, and generally across Europe, there is a problem with pensions. Basicly, too many people are living long after 60 (or 65) and drawing cash from the pension funds.
There are a number of possible solutions to this but one is "making" peole stay on at work after 60. The UK Govt and the unions reperesenting the public sector workforce are currenly sorting out rules to permit flexibillity in this matter. (Letting those who wish to quit at 60, but permitting people to stay on at work as long as they can.)
I'm pretty sure the other European govenments are doing the same sort of thing. The last thing the Government wants people to do is retire at 60. There is every chance that, when I come to retirement, it will be at 65 rather than 60- they may have to raise the bar even further as healthcare costs rise.

Not only that, but sacking someone for turning 60 would be a breach of the European Human rights act.

This is another case of "OH My God, Look At the Crazy Laws!" where the laws, like those forbidding experiments in high school labs, simply don't exist.

This begs the question, who starts this sort of story and why?

mick - 16-4-2005 at 11:41

Benzyl chloride and allyl chloride are industrial chemicals with full safety advice. Benzyl bromide, benzyl iodide, allyl bromide and allyl iodide are not and do not have the same info. As a chemist I would expect the bromide and iodide to be more toxic. Work with the devil you know and just because there is not a piece of paper use common sense.


Here in the UK my old man in his 80,s is suprised at all the benefits. Free bus pass, free TV licence, cheap road tax and insurance, help with winter heating and post-help with burying his wife.

[Edited on 16-4-2005 by mick]

unionised - 18-4-2005 at 13:04

Allyl chloride is rather volatile and a pain in the neck to work with.
On the other hand, is it in any sense relevant to this thread?

Quince - 28-4-2005 at 02:03

Heh, I don't think that a poll was necessary, as it is quite easy to predict what the opinion of people around here is.

unionised - 30-4-2005 at 05:02

It is sadly predictable that the majority feel that education is being hampered by regulations that don't really exist.

It would be funny if they were to think that the tooth fairy was harming education, but this is a tragedy.

neutrino - 30-4-2005 at 05:42

The regulations may not always exist on paper, but they certainly do exist in the minds of people who ‘would’ be affected by them, i.e. the teachers and superintendents. The rules don’t have to be formal to apply. Sadly, a general sense of restraint in the minds of the teachers will be more than enough.

vulture - 30-4-2005 at 06:06

I think that "safety regulation" in this thread should be interpreted as restraint exercised by politicians, local authorities, lobby groups (parents, econuts) and people who are otherwise in a position to influence chemical education on a highschool level.

There may not be explicit laws, but if a teacher can get sued under some other law for something minor, this still has considerable effect. This is mainly caused by the idiotic interpretation of liability these days.

[Edited on 30-4-2005 by vulture]

sparkgap - 30-4-2005 at 06:15

Actually, I conceived the poll in that regulations may be hampering chemical education as a whole, not just high school.

unionised, looking back at your first post in this thread, yes, I would agree that it is not explicitly stated in the applicable laws that such-and-such reaction should not be done as a classroom demonstration. It is to my knowledge, however, that "unwritten rules" guised as safety regulations have done more than their fair share of curtailing activities seen to be valuable in illuminating chemical concepts to the uninitiated. That, and the fear of litigation, as vulture mentions.

sparky (°_°)

unionised - 30-4-2005 at 14:06

Perhaps we need a new poll, "Is education in chemistry being ruined by ambulance-chasing lawyers (Y/N)"

The problem isn't regulations, it's the lack of understanding of risk by parents, headteachers and whoever. Those who wish to pretend that terrorism and/or drug manufacture is a major threat to our day to day lives also feed into this problem. Again, if the people knew how to evaluate real risk, they wouldn't let governments ban the sale of nitrate fertilisers.

[Edited on 30-4-2005 by unionised]

health shmelth

tetrachloromethane - 27-6-2005 at 14:11

In high school chemistry, most of the reactions that would be regulated are probably out of the courses' scope. As for mercury thermometers; they are a necessity. If the gov't bans mercury thermometers due to health concerns, why dont they ban partially hydrogented or brominated oils from the cafeteria?

neutrino - 27-6-2005 at 15:05

There are still many interesting ones that are within the scope of high school chem that aren't done, e.g. alkali metal + water.

What's so necessary about mercury thermometers? What about alcohol?

Geomancer - 27-6-2005 at 15:32

No (to a first approximation). I think it's more a result of the changing role of chemical education. Back in the day, if you were taking cemistry courses there was a decent chance you would become a chemist, or at least someone who might need to work in a lab environment. If you were to ask a lower level college chemistry class today what their carreer goals are, chances are good that you won't get a single person wanting to be a chemist. It's simply not worth the risk for people that won't need the experience.

This is not to discount fear of litigation, of course. Yesterday, for example, there was an advertisement on TV trolling for people with benzene exposure.

Magpie - 27-6-2005 at 17:59

In reference to nitrate fertilizers I read today that the Simplot Fertilizer company (USA) is planning to stop production of ammonium nitrate. Reasons given were: 1) wanting to not allow terrorists to get a hold of it, and 2) don't want the hassle of complying with government regulations that are being proposed in congress. Agrium, a Canadian competitor, however, said that they have no plans to stop production. Simplot production is currently 40,000 tons/yr.

sparkgap - 27-6-2005 at 20:56

"...what's so necessary about mercury thermometers? What about alcohol?"

If you're going to be taking the temperature of something that would boil alcohol at its current condition, it really isn't a good idea to use an alcohol thermometer for it. :) But this is still a moot point in defending mercury thermometers; gallium themometers (although a bit expensive) and thermocouples are good alternatives to using mercury.

tetrachloromethane (whew! long name :)), they won't ban partially hydrogenated oils since there are usually no cheaper alternatives.

Geomancer, was it a law firm? ;)

sparky (~_~)

P.S. Is thread digging becoming a rising sport here? :D

I am a fish - 28-6-2005 at 02:27

Originally posted by Geomancer
This is not to discount fear of litigation, of course. Yesterday, for example, there was an advertisement on TV trolling for people with benzene exposure.

Who hasn't been "exposed" to benzene? Everytime someone fills a car with petrol/gasoline, they're handling of the order a litre of benzene. Petrol/gasoline is only available to the public because it's a necessity with no economic alternative. If it wasn't required as a fuel, it would have been banned years ago.

DeAdFX - 19-9-2005 at 13:54

Science is mostly associated with LOL GUYS LETS MKE A KEWLZ BOMBS n blow up skool cause our t3ahcers a fag0t n00b n shit LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL... PRAISE ALLAH FUCK YOU WESTERN GUYS.. lolz guys whats this anarchism killing polic n shit yo this is tight..

When the hell did political oreitation or whatever the hell you call it combine with science to form terrorism and anarchy. Science is science and a fucktard with a bomb wanting to cause a "revolution" is some fucktard on the internet. In other words when you go up to somebody and say Im going to cook my food with propane they dont go OMG CALL HOMELAND SECURITY THIS GUYS GONNA MAKE AN FAE LOLOL

Until people get a clue and realize that science HAS ABSO FUCKING LUTLY nothing to do political views we will contiune to have this nonsense regulations...

Sorry for cursing but this makes my blood boil.

Quince - 19-9-2005 at 20:40

A propane burner doesn't classify as a FAE.

The_Davster - 20-9-2005 at 16:52

I remembered something my general chem proff once said right after doing a KClO3/Sugar +sulfuric demo; "Don't ever try this at home, if you were to order chlorates the police would show up and you would be thought to be a terrorist, we can only do this here because as a university we are the only ones which can carry out the reaction safely and in a controlled way, and we can keep stringent controls on who uses the chemicals."

Chem Nazi....:mad:

Surprisingly, I would have thought as a university they would have pure K-chlorate, but the flame colour indicated strong sodium contamination.

Dr.Freemanstein - 22-9-2005 at 16:06

I whole heartedly agree...

when I hear what my step-son says about his science lessons now, makes me cringe!!

We got to do some great experimental stuff, but now (only 8-10years on!) if they are allowed to do anything remotely dangerous, its gotta be done in like a air-tight, bio-controlled, strike-hard nuclear bunker before the govenors will allow it to be performed! When we were at school, they were dropping re-active metals into all sorts of stuff to show us how much of a Bang they make!!!

triphenylphosphineoxide - 15-6-2006 at 19:57

Last year most of my fellow Chemistry grad students worked for a Science and Technology centre, taking science "shows" to primary schools, we also ran shows for a few early secondary schools. The shows we offered were hydraulics, electricity, and chemistry.
Almost 90% (18/21) of the primary schools in the local area asked for the hydraulics demonstration. This demonstarion was the safest, but also the cheapest and the one with the least need for us.
The electricity show was only ordered by the secondary schools, and shockingly(sorry;)) none of these schools had a working Van de Graff Generator, Hiring us fitted better with budget constraints than getting the damned thing fixed. A result of some strange 80:20 guideline ie 80% of department funding should go on staff, 20% on infrastructure or consumables. This is not a law just a guideline, but still it's killing music departments, and crippling science at secondary levels.
The real tradgedy was the chemistry show only 2 local primary schools ordered it(both private), and one distant public school. the schools that ordered this one were amazing. The teachers were enthusiastic and wanted to expose their students to aspects of science that primary schools just can't offer. These teachers had also taken it upon themselves to teach some of the theory behind our experiments prior to our arrival.(Grade 3 and 4 or 8/9 year olds learning redox chem.) This show was loved. Each time we stayed an extra two hours playing showing what can be done with chemicals we could find in the staff room/art room/garden etc. the kids loved it.
The tragedy being that all the other schools missed out, as they could only afford one or for nonsensical reasons like "Isn't that a bit dangerous?" or "They're only children it's a bit over their heads"
From this limited sample it seems clear that chemical education is suffering more than most, but safety regulations themselves play only a small part in this. Fear of danger is more crippling. Lack of finances, bizarre financial priorities, Chemically ignorant teachers, and a persistant desire to underestimate a child's intelligence are just as detrimental.
I almost feel sorry for the students we interacted with, as they will not meet chemistry like this again untill post compulsory education( over the age of 16), unless they become home experimenters.
i'll stop now but I could keep up this rant for another 3 hours minimum.

[Edited on 16-6-2006 by triphenylphosphineoxide]

vulture - 16-6-2006 at 13:08

Just look at the positive side. Knowledge truly is power.

Every day the people around you get dumber, is a day that you get smarter and that gains you more power.

Ofcourse, knowledge of how to deal with this power is important, as dumb masses can still instigate powerful witchhunts. You can't outthink an angry mob.

Quince - 16-6-2006 at 17:03

On a related topic, according to an influential US political economist, basic science should be regulated by government (outside federal grant programs as well):

The_Davster - 16-6-2006 at 22:38

Quince, I am not going to say I read the entire thing, I was nauseous before the fifth page.
Anyone who says that religion and politics should regulate science is a crackpot

Quince - 17-6-2006 at 00:06

Hehe, he was on the bioethics committee advising Bush until 2005. I'm sure many of his cronies remain. These are the people affecting US policy on science.

vulture - 17-6-2006 at 13:38

Well maybe we scientists are partly self to blame. In Belgium there are nearly zero scientists in parliament. All is full with economics masters, communication sciences (blegh, kinda the dumpster faculty if you know what I mean) and ofcourse celebs or sportsmen/women.

simply RED - 3-7-2006 at 07:10

I was thinking on this for years and now I realise, the things are prety simple :
During the cold war we were needed to make nukes, etc... now when the cold war is over... you know what the situation is.

And the "crackdown" in science started far before 2001.

Everything is becoming private! The worse is the place in the 3rd world. Corporations sell their goods here, but they do not hire people from here (in science sectors) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Magpie - 3-7-2006 at 16:11

a recent US newspaper editorial:

"Society suffers from lack of chemistry sets

Kudos to The Dispatch for Tuesday’s editorial "Wonder deficit." It was right on target.

I was a member of that generation for whom a chemistry set was a portal to adventure. In fact, for more than half of my Christmases, Santa left either a chemistry set or an Erector set under our tree, much to my joy.

As a teen, the interest that grew from those sets led to setting up a larger lab at home. And yes, in retrospect, and now as a parent, the image of a kid making bromine, chlorine and hydrogen in his bedroom seems problematic.

But I did survive, and those experiments fueled my long-standing love of science. And in truth, the level of risk some of those activities required forced a sense of caution and responsibility that probably exceeded my age. While these are definitely different – and riskier – times than those of my childhood, we ought to worry a bit about what we have lost in our zealousness for absolute safety. EARLE M. HOLLAND Assistant vice president for research communications Ohio State University Columbus"

franklyn - 30-7-2006 at 14:08

Originally posted by sparkgap
Is chemical education being cramped by current safety regulations?




Originally posted by cyclonite4
( quote ) - Some call Dihydrogen Monoxide the "Invisible Killer"
dihydrogen monoxide should be Banned

Read the entry in Bretherick's , it's hair raising :o

[Edited on 30-7-2006 by franklyn]

A little nostalgia

franklyn - 26-9-2006 at 23:06

Click the page of each article that appears to view the rest of it.


[Edited on 27-9-2006 by franklyn]

not_important - 27-9-2006 at 00:33


* The gas that makes you laugh.
* The crystal which eliminates the need for sleep.
* The dust that lets you lift a car.
* The weed that makes you feed.
* The liquid that gives you control of time and space.

And they said the 1960s were full of dopers.