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 Poll: Is chemical education being cramped by current safety regulations? Yes 89 (89%) No 11 (11%)

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Author: Subject: Is chemical education being cramped by current safety regulations?
sparkgap
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Is chemical education being cramped by current safety regulations?

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

Post your positions on the debate also.

sparky (^_^)

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I am a fish
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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.

1f /0u (4|\\| |234d 7|-|15, /0u |234||`/ |\\|33d 70 937 0u7 /\\/\\0|23.
sparkgap
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And what, pray tell, would be the "wanker excuse" for banning the mixing of two chemicals used quite frequently in the kitchen?

sparky (^_^)

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Pyrovus
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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.

Never accept that which can be changed.
cyclonite4
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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.

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.

\"It is dangerous to be right, when your government is wrong.\" - Voltaire
Silentnite
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I think it would be very very easy to ban any teaching of chemistry in classes simpy due to an event that Pyrovus mentioned.

DiHydrogen Monoxide

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.
Eclectic
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Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide now!

www.dhmo.org
sparkgap
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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.

sparky (^_^)

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jetfuel
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Isn't it the truth

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

james m. Fox
Sergei_Eisenstein
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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
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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.

The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
kyanite
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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

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
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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...

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]
FloridaAlchemist
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Safety to the nth degree

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 The dean of the college wants to get rid of the chem labs and use Virtual labs.
runlabrun
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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?

-rlr
Scratch-
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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
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 Quote: -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!

\"It is dangerous to be right, when your government is wrong.\" - Voltaire
Silentnite
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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
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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

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Chris The Great
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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.
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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 fire....by 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
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Replies first.

BromicAcid:

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

Silentnite:

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...

rlr:

Quote:

"...it'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.

frogfot:

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...

Chemistry in the femtomole range?! 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". 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]

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vulture
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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.

One shouldn't accept or resort to the mutilation of science to appease the mentally impaired.
sparkgap
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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.

"What's UTFSE? I keep hearing about it, but I can't be arsed to search for the answer..."
frogfot
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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

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)..
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 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Non-chemistry » Legal and Societal Issues » Is chemical education being cramped by current safety regulations? Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Responsible Practices   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues