Sciencemadness Discussion Board

2,4-DNPH in schools - overreaction

Scalebar - 2-11-2016 at 01:30

There have been a couple of news reports about this - and couple of places calling the bomb squad over the stuff, it just adds to stupid mentality in the press of 'chemicals are dangerous'

Looks to me like the info sent out to schools was just plain alarmist and the controlled explosion solution a total waste of public money.

I've had to deal with the stuff before when it's dried out - and picric acid, we just immerse the whole container in warm water and ask our chemical waste company to come and pick it up when they're next in the area.

Chemetix - 2-11-2016 at 02:16

Nothing like having something to justify spending all that money turning the police into a paramilitary outfit. The Yanks have turned this transformation into high art while Australia seems almost comic with the police force changing the uniform to dark blue (read black) and turn every domestic situation into a exercise of 'show of force'.
Several years ago a guy in a little town called Castlemaine had a few fireworks ingredients; net quantity 4kg. (reported in the media via the cops as 4kg of "explosives" ie KNO3 plus others. He had let the odd bang go off and that required bomb squad, helicopters with black clad numpties dropping down ropes, and what seemed like a brigade of cop cars.
Not to mention the media the cops called.

Overreact much??

j_sum1 - 2-11-2016 at 03:25

That Castlemaine story is all kinds of disturbing. Really, it makes as much sense to arrest someone for having 20L of lawnmower fuel. I hope his lawyer made that point. That media story was so full of hyperbole it was ridiculous. I could excuse the police reaction if they were misinformed about the scale of the situation. But for the media to deliberately misrepresent details and inflame the situation is reprehensible.

As for the UK situation, I understand it from the schools' perspective. They have this chemical. It is no longer in the curriculum. It presents certain hazards if dry and the longer it is left there the greater is the risk of someone who knows nothing doing something foolish with it. They decide to get rid of it. Some administrator box-checker type up the chain of command has deemed that the best method for disposal of 2, 4 DNPH is detonation. So the school follows protocol and informs the police. Then the police follow standard policy when faced with an explosive material of indeterminate destructive potential.

What is an over-reaction is the public response to a little bang and window rattling. And the allocation of newspaper inches to people with nothing more significant going on in their lives.

CuReUS - 2-11-2016 at 03:58

But why did the castlemaine guy have anti-personnel mines if he was just making firecrackers ?

j_sum1 - 2-11-2016 at 04:39

Ok. I somehow missed that item. That is a bit odd. It would be a concern if they were operational. But he strikes me as just a fairly ordinary guy with some quirky interests -- much like most of us here. Just because he has an interest in railway does not make him a candidate for a terrorist attack on a commuter train. Likewise if he had a WWII relic mine from a French farm, I would not assume he was up to something nefarious. There is not enough detail to know, but my bet is that he is pretty harmless.

The reporter was reckless with inferences and very light on the details that actually matter. There is a world of difference between someone with an interest in pyrotechnics and someone with a TAPT vest.

Scalebar - 2-11-2016 at 07:20

Actually, is detonation really going to destroy the stuff or if it's still wet in the container, is it just spreading it around?

wg48 - 2-11-2016 at 10:16

Wow the BBC news gave a detailed explanation of the DNPH in the UK school incident with a picture of its structure.

That’s much better than the usual so simplified its ridiculous technical sound bites they frequently give, like oxygen burning or volatile explosives.

nezza - 2-11-2016 at 12:36

"They have this chemical. It is no longer in the curriculum.". Are "A" level chemistry students these days allowed to do ANY chemistry. It strikes me that they are only allowed near a lab in full NBC suits to watch a teacher adding sodium chloride to water from a safe distance. It's no wonder kids these days are sciencephobic and of course the media and the police farce encourage that.

Chemetix - 2-11-2016 at 12:54

What I am concerned about is the way this seems the beginning of a new dark ages, where information is politicised and possession of it tantamount to witchcraft. I've stopped myself searching for something on the web because of the Big Brother factor; ooh this wouldn't look good if it came up. There is a paranoid new reality where any risk is too much risk. I was talking with a lab manager about how they have to remove so many chemicals from the teaching curriculum because of the risks. A small amount of dilute hydrazine was deemed too toxic for first year chem students. 'Really?' I say 'burn a nitrile glove, you are so fond of handing out, in a classroom and then tell me what toxic is?'

I know the difference in terms of risk management between the two situations, but the point to be made is risk is everywhere, and the distinction between removing one risk and overlooking another equal or greater by ignorance or necessity, makes the whole exercise seem arbitrary and overstated. You breed a generation who has never had to deal with risk and with very little practical experience with anything other than installing an app on their phone, they are incredibly pliable in the hands of an authority who tell them they are having their freedoms removed because of THE DANGER! They have no way of knowing whether the risk is genuine or complete bullshit.

This has drifted off topic, but in terms of spending $250,000 on an operation to have heavily armed SOGs yell 'GET ON THE GROUND' to a harmless yokel, then jam an automatic weapon in his face, handcuffing him with a knee on his neck then telling the media they found 'explosives' is bullshit overreaction. They could have sent the amiable local sergeant over to say 'Bill, if you're going to let off a few bangs you might want to go somewhere a bit out of the way, it's scaring the neighbours... and by the way are those real mines?' And Bill says ' Yeah, I get your point, a couple were a bit louder than I expected and those are training mines used for disposal practice. Kinda cool.'
'Look Bill I'd better take them, they could end up god knows where one day'
Risks managed, no bullshit.

unionised - 2-11-2016 at 13:08

Quote: Originally posted by Chemetix  
Nothing like having something to justify spending all that money turning the police into a paramilitary outfit.

Ironically, it's the other way round in this case.
The police called in the "bomb squad".
It's entirely possible that they are civilians

How much you should worry about a few grams of DNPH is another matter but blowing it to kingdom come isn't a bad solution.
OK most of it just gets redistributed across the sports field but who cares?
30 years ago they were spraying that field with DNOC as a pesticide.

It avoids any potential risks of transport.
And it gives the press something to shout about.

The only real problem I see is the damage done to the reputation of chemistry; promoting the "all chemicals are bad" we should ban dihydrogen monoxide sort of thing.

Waiting until the fifth of November and chucking it into the bonfire would have been sensible.

Magpie - 2-11-2016 at 17:24

A common reagent in use for decades in the organic teaching labs to identify carbonyls is now a horrible, scary chemical that must be blown up under cover of darkness. What's next, sodium, phosphorus? Where will it end?

unionised - 3-11-2016 at 14:07

Just a thought... will all the excitement of blowing stuff up on school fields get kids interested in science?

macckone - 3-11-2016 at 18:32

The next scare after dihydrogen monoxide will be that sodium and chlorine compounds are found contaminating food in school cafeterias. It must be alqeda as chlorine is a known war gas and sodium is in drain cleaner! Quick save the children. It is assault!

Scalebar - 4-11-2016 at 00:29

Quote: Originally posted by macckone  
sodium and chlorine compounds are found contaminating food in school cafeterias.

Don't! Our campus banned salt from the tables of every eating establishment in the place in favour of compulsory lo-salt on the grounds of 'public health' - despite the fact that they still use tonnes of salt in the kitchen and serve fat laden sugar doped crap.

Handy for when you need to precipitate out a bit of K perchlorate though...

j_sum1 - 7-11-2016 at 15:34

Relevant (good) article on the situation.

In particular it explains why it is being exploded on site at schools rather than just wetted down.
CLEAPSS’ advice is that if 2,4-DNPH has not been stored according to their instructions, or if it has but the water in the outer container has dried out, it must be assumed that the 2,4-DNPH has dried out and poses an increased risk. They advise that in either of these cases, the bottle should not be opened, and the school should contact CLEAPSS for further advice. This is because of the small risk of the friction caused by opening the bottle triggering a small explosion.

So the hyperbole comes essentially from the media. No surprise there.