Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Eye-opening lab seizure

charley1957 - 3-11-2020 at 17:56

I found this from 2008, in an online Worcester, Mass. newspaper. I know this is like beating a dead horse, but man it just makes my blood boil. :mad: As if this retired chemist didn't know how to store, use and dispose of chemicals. They used all these excuses to just wholesale carry away his lab. I'm so thankful I live in Texas where I can do thermite in my back yard in full view of all my neighbors and have no problems. As described elsewhere on this forum, I have invited the local sheriff to tour my lab, just to show him what I'm up to, with no permits for any of the glassware I own, as was required at the time. God Bless Texas!



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Ubya - 4-11-2020 at 00:52

Quote:
None of the materials found at 81 Fremont St. posed a radiological or biological risk, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. No mercury or poison was found.
Some of the compounds are potentially explosive, but no more dangerous than typical household cleaning products.
All potentially hazardous materials were removed from the house.
...
Vessels of chemicals were all over the furniture and the floor, authorities said. The ensuing investigation involved a state hazardous materials team, fire and police officials, health officials, environmental officials and code enforcement officials.
...
“It is a residential home in a residential neighborhood,” she said. “This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.


So nothing was really dangerous, he just had "too much stuff" in their opinion, well i gotta confiscate my GF's plushies, she has too many.

Quote:
Pamela A. Wilderman, Marlboro’s code enforcement officer, said Mr. Deeb was doing scientific research and development in a residential area, which is a violation of zoning laws


i think this is the real reason, he was doing research and publishing patents using his home as a lab, so here we go bois, just state that you are playing with chemicals and not doing scientific research in the basement. They were probably just pissed he wasn't paying taxes, insurance and all the bureaucratic stuff a real lab must do


arkoma - 4-11-2020 at 06:58

Folks at city hall asked me if I'd make some LSD yesterday when I voted. Absolutely in jest, but again, small town America, know everyone, hide nothing (well, not much anyway).

I would cry if my stuff got summarily seized and carted off like that.

teodor - 4-11-2020 at 09:09

To this sad collection, Adrian's laboratory theft in 2012: https://youtu.be/7ZdPuNkjg-U

But I don't know many stories like that, at least not so many in the news.

unionised - 4-11-2020 at 10:43

Quote: Originally posted by charley1957  
I'm so thankful I live in Texas where I can do thermite in my back yard in full view of all my neighbors and have no problems.

As long as you don't own a 3 necked flask...

charley1957 - 4-11-2020 at 11:48

Dang it! Too late! And still no permits!

Chemorg42 - 4-11-2020 at 12:36

"Not considered a customary home occupation..."
In other-words, "You have been accused of behaviour which does not conform to the thought patterns of civilized man, prepare to be reeducated!"

itsallgoodjames - 4-11-2020 at 15:48

How is it legal for them to confiscate stuff on the grounds of "that's not a normal thing people do in a house, therefore bad"? How is this at all legal?

Herr Haber - 4-11-2020 at 16:33

Quote: Originally posted by Chemorg42  
"You have been accused of behaviour which does not conform to the thought


What do we do with witches ?
https://youtu.be/zrzMhU_4m-g



charley1957 - 4-11-2020 at 17:49

@itsallgoodjames and Chemorg42. These were my questions exactly! What gives them the right to cart all his stuff away just because what he's doing is not something the average Joe does at home. So they were going to test a lot of his chemicals. So why does he have to forfeit his stuff pending testing? Testing for what? And to check and see if some of his stuff didn't "seep into the sewer lines"??? Give me a break! I know this is an old story, but it's new to me, and the thinking of the nanny state just appalls me!

Cou - 4-11-2020 at 18:37

You need to be a good little boy who goes to college, uses the degree only for getting a job, gets a job, comes home and cracks a beer and watches the game with the wife, that's it.

DraconicAcid - 4-11-2020 at 18:55

Quote: Originally posted by Cou  
You need to be a good little boy who goes to college, uses the degree only for getting a job, gets a job, comes home and cracks a beer and watches the game with the wife, that's it.


You shouldn't even go to college- book-lernin's suspicious.

teodor - 4-11-2020 at 23:16

My point is, if is there only one case like that in the last 12 years it is very sad, but still there is no reason for generalization.

But if there were a lot of cases like that which never have appeared in the news, it is the real problem of the society.

[Edited on 5-11-2020 by teodor]

itsallgoodjames - 5-11-2020 at 06:24

Quote: Originally posted by teodor  
My point is, if is there only one case like that in the last 12 years it is very sad, but still there is no reason for generalization.

But if there were a lot of cases like that which never have appeared in the news, it is the real problem of the society.

[Edited on 5-11-2020 by teodor]

Given the general public's perception of home chemistry, I bet it's more than likely that it's the latter. When I tell someone I'm interested in chemistry, without fail, their next question is "can you make meth?". It seems like the public thinks of us all as drug cooks, so I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the cases of this went under the radar and didn't get widely reported.

Antigua - 5-11-2020 at 06:31

Quote: Originally posted by itsallgoodjames  
Quote: Originally posted by teodor  
My point is, if is there only one case like that in the last 12 years it is very sad, but still there is no reason for generalization.

But if there were a lot of cases like that which never have appeared in the news, it is the real problem of the society.

[Edited on 5-11-2020 by teodor]

Given the general public's perception of home chemistry, I bet it's more than likely that it's the latter. When I tell someone I'm interested in chemistry, without fail, their next question is "can you make meth?". It seems like the public thinks of us all as drug cooks, so I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the cases of this went under the radar and didn't get widely reported.


Exactly! I always get so pissed when I tell people that I'm an amateur chemist and interested in organic compounds. It always comes down to "can you make me some mephedrone?". The ABSOLUTE worst is when someone starts rumoring about me that I make drugs in my lab after I specifically say that I DON'T MAKE DRUGS. This is so irritating and stressful. I'm just waiting until the police show up to search my lab because some dumb shit is ignorant and loves spreading rumors.


End of the rant. Also what happened to the guy in the original post is sad and unjustified.

charley1957 - 5-11-2020 at 06:39

This is Mr. Deeb’s hobby. He’s still got bunches of ideas. I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere. This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.


I THINK Mr. Deebs has crossed a line SOMEWHERE.

She thinks? She doesn’t know for sure? And WHERE did he cross that line, and what line did he cross?

This is not what WE would consider a CUSTOMARY home occupation.

This is a not what the nanny state considers a customary home occupation. Guess we’re all just supposed to build bird houses in the back shed. And I’ll bet there’s not a WORD in the zoning regulations about research not being allowed. And of course the local news takes everything the zoning people say at face value.

charley1957 - 5-11-2020 at 07:05

Ok, I stand corrected and red-faced☺️ I went to the Worcester, Mass city page and researched their zoning regs. As far back as 1991 (as far back as their ordinances are published online) there has been a ban on Research, without manufacturing, in any form of residence. I guess the poor guy’s mistake was in calling his hobby research. It probably doesn’t matter though, as the moment he was found out doing chemistry he was doomed, given the state of chemophobia in this country.

teodor - 5-11-2020 at 07:22

From the book "Lost at Sea" by Jon Ronson:

I RECEIVE a slightly alarmed e-mail from Jason Bobe, who runs DIYbio.org, an online community for home-science experimenters. I’d e-mailed him as part of my research. He says he’s worried my story may discourage home science. Maybe, he suggests, I should talk to Victor Deeb, whose experiments in his basement went disastrously wrong in a very different way and whose story might offer a counterbalance.
Deeb lives in a small Massachusetts town called Marlborough. He’s retired, in his mid-seventies, and although he’s lived in the U.S. almost all his life, he still has a strong Syrian accent, which gets stronger as he becomes more incensed over the phone.
Three years ago, on August 5, 2008, a policeman happened to be driving past Deeb’s house. “He saw smoke billowing from the air conditioner in an upstairs room, so he called the fire department.” Deeb speaks in short, exact phrases, as if he considers our conversation to be like a chemical experiment, requiring complete precision.
A plug had shorted in the bedroom. The fire department put out the fire, glanced into the basement, and immediately called for emergency reinforcements.
“The whole fire department came,” Victor says. “The FBI. Even the CIA was here. It couldn’t have been any more crazy. They went into the sewer system to see if I was dumping anything down the toilet.”
What they had found in the basement was a hundred bottles of chemicals. None was hazardous. There was nothing poisonous. “I was working on a coating for the inside of beverage cans containing no bisphenol A,” Deeb says.
BPA, he explains, is standard in beverage-can coatings. The problem is that it can seep into the drink and play havoc with our hormones, causing men to grow breasts and girls as young as seven to have periods. Back in 2008, he says, “there were few references in the media to the negative effects of BPA. Currently, there is a deluge of articles. So my desire to eliminate BPA was ahead of its time.” He pauses. “I spent an enormous amount of time with the authorities, trying to explain what I was working on, but they had no perception. No concept.”
And so he watched as they hauled away all the chemicals and test tubes in a truck. “I had a box full of files and notes and comments,” he says. “Twenty years’ work. They hired two Ph.D. chemists to go through the box, looking for confirmation that there were hazardous materials in the basement. When they couldn’t find anything, they left the box out in the rain. It destroyed all my notes. Twenty years of my life and work and efforts to help others down the drain.”
“When they realized their mistake, I presume they apologized and paid you a settlement,” I say.
“The opposite!” he says. “They’re suing me for the cost of emptying my basement.”
For America’s online community of home-science experimenters, the most outrageous moment of all came when the enforcement officer, Pamela Wilderman, explained her decision-making process to the local paper: “I think Mr. Deeb has crossed a line somewhere,” she said. “This is not what we would consider to be a customary home occupation.”
“Allow me to translate Ms. Wilderman’s words into plain English,” wrote Robert Bruce Thompson, the author of Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. “‘Mr. Deeb hasn’t actually violated any law or regulation that I can find, but I don’t like what he’s doing because I’m ignorant and irrationally afraid of chemicals, so I’ll abuse my power to steal his property and shut him down.’ . . . There’s a word for what just happened in Massachusetts. Tyranny.”
Before I hang up, Victor Deeb says he wants to remind me of something. He says that for every David Hahn and Richard Handl, there’s a Steve Jobs and a Charles Goodyear. “They started at home. Goodyear developed the vulcanization process by mixing sulfur with virgin rubber on his wife’s stove in their kitchen.”
And then he is gone, to do—he says—what he spends every day doing. He’s going to try to remember what he’d written on the pages in the box that was left out in the rain.

Fyndium - 5-11-2020 at 10:17

When you can show actual property damage that is caused by unlawful action on a lawful matter, suing for compensation is much easier than for "emotional distress".

People have won millions from as stupid things as traffic stops.

I have actually been part of few complaints and I've noticed that once you start pushing something seriously that can carry on, a settlement is more often offered than going to actual court. So don't just whine online, complain on the PD but do actual legal action with precise numbers and items and request for a compensation. Fun case: my friend got raided because of some mail got scrammed at the border and they opened it, saw white powder and concluded that he is gonna blow something up. They confiscated everything that they could rip off his apartment. It dried up as fast as it had started and they released him the next day after finding zero illegalities, but they still kept the stuff. He argued as long as he got everything back, and I was visiting at his parents the day police showed up behind their door, because they brought back a scale they had confiscated that my friend told was property of his mother's. They drove all the way down there just to bring it back. It was old, 3$ el cheapo scale that barely worked. But well, it was her property. We did laugh a little, after all.

[Edited on 5-11-2020 by Fyndium]

Herr Haber - 5-11-2020 at 11:09

Zoning regulations for R&D ?

In some people's mind Archimedes should have been drowned in his bathtub and Newton... well, stoned to death with apples for overthinking while in an orchard ?

Fyndium - 5-11-2020 at 12:54

Funny thing though, I tried to ask my gov't chem office about restrictions on storing and handling chemicals in accommodations. There are clear limits on fuels and flammable liquids, pressurized gas, explosives&ammo, fireworks and radioactive materials, but there are no factual limits on poisonous, toxic, reactive or other categories. They gave rather vague answer regarding to common safety matters, but when I asked is it actually illegal to keep 25kg barrel of sodium cyanide lying around my living room, they only stated that it must be kept locked away from other people.

Cou - 5-11-2020 at 18:48

Nothing says "sticking it to the man" more than legally keeping a barrel of sodium cyanide in your bedroom because you weren't allowed to keep one dime bag of cannabis. x)

arkoma - 5-11-2020 at 19:44

Quote: Originally posted by itsallgoodjames  
Quote: Originally posted by teodor  
My point is, if is there only one case like that in the last 12 years it is very sad, but still there is no reason for generalization.

But if there were a lot of cases like that which never have appeared in the news, it is the real problem of the society.

[Edited on 5-11-2020 by teodor]

Given the general public's perception of home chemistry, I bet it's more than likely that it's the latter. When I tell someone I'm interested in chemistry, without fail, their next question is "can you make meth?". It seems like the public thinks of us all as drug cooks, so I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the cases of this went under the radar and didn't get widely reported.


"of course I CAN make meth, any idiot could, but why bother" is my reply. Not. Even. A Challenge. To. Make. Meth.

Fyndium - 6-11-2020 at 01:48

I like to state that chemistry is much like a puzzle where you have to figure a way to assemble different molecules which interact differently with each other. There are no boundaries between different substances, hence, yes, conceptually most chemists probably know well how to make your example meth. Many people drive cars as their jobs, and they can easily imagine how to roll over people with them, but do they?

100% of matter you touch is a subject of chemical reaction, so it's an understatement that chemistry is a niche thing.

teodor - 6-11-2020 at 02:07

It's not so simple. Many years ago I asked my friend's wife who worked in a laboratory as a professional chemist whether she can get some chemicals for me. She became very angry and said "never". Her husband made excuse and said me that several people "terrorised" her and asked for chemicals, those people were actually meth cookers, but now she has opinion that everybody who ask chemicals is a meth cooker. So, this was an opinion of professional chemist, not a member of general public, you see.

[Edited on 6-11-2020 by teodor]

[Edited on 6-11-2020 by teodor]

charley1957 - 6-11-2020 at 07:41

Quote: Originally posted by Fyndium  
Funny thing though, I tried to ask my gov't chem office about restrictions on storing and handling chemicals in accommodations. There are clear limits on fuels and flammable liquids, pressurized gas, explosives&ammo, fireworks and radioactive materials, but there are no factual limits on poisonous, toxic, reactive or other categories. They gave rather vague answer regarding to common safety matters, but when I asked is it actually illegal to keep 25kg barrel of sodium cyanide lying around my living room, they only stated that it must be kept locked away from other people.


Fyndium, yeah it’s all well and good till something happens then they come and take your stuff under all kinds of reasons they couldn’t give you when you asked. And then you have no recourse on getting it back.

charley1957 - 6-11-2020 at 10:17

Thanks teodor for that first-hand account of Mr. Deebs' lab theft. I know this is an old case, but the more I find out about it the madder I get! :mad::mad::mad:

teodor - 6-11-2020 at 10:26

charley1957, you are welcome, if somebody needs my help to collect more cases like that I can invest a bit of my time. The first step to protect the community would be to collect all the cases, make them public. You see, that case with Mr. Deeb really had a big resonance in society.

karlos³ - 6-11-2020 at 10:44

Quote: Originally posted by Antigua  
[
Exactly! I always get so pissed when I tell people that I'm an amateur chemist and interested in organic compounds.

A little tip that will help you in the future: don't tell anyone about this, as it will come back to bite you and has no benefits.
Just tell them whatever but not that you're an amateur chemist, this will do you no good.

Antigua - 6-11-2020 at 10:47

Quote: Originally posted by karlos³  
Quote: Originally posted by Antigua  
[
Exactly! I always get so pissed when I tell people that I'm an amateur chemist and interested in organic compounds.

A little tip that will help you in the future: don't tell anyone about this, as it will come back to bite you and has no benefits.
Just tell them whatever but not that you're an amateur chemist, this will do you no good.

You're right, the urge of sharing one's interests is disastrous in that case. Now I started worrying about all the people I've already told that! That will probably stick for a couple of days with me...
Appreciate it, karl ;)

Texium - 6-11-2020 at 10:53

I vehemently disagree. If you slip up, or by some unrelated coincidence the authorities learn about your lab, and you have nobody to come to your defense and say that your interest is legitimate, you’re going to find a lot less sympathy from both the authorities and the public. Secrecy invites suspicion. If you’re open about your hobby, sure there will be some closed-minded people who will never trust you, but I guarantee that you’ll come across twice as many people who think it’s damn cool, as long as it’s clear you know what you’re doing. Even if they make the occasional meth or bomb joke, most people just think they’re being clever and funny with those.

Fyndium - 6-11-2020 at 12:08

Being open and having trail of documents of your hobby makes things quite a lot easier. Usually the case is that a hobbyist is found a pile of liberally stored chemicals in all kinds of unmarked mason jars and glassware and they can't really describe what they are using them for. Many people do hoard rare and interesting chemicals just for the sake of it. I've done it many times. There's that once in a lifetime chance to buy something extra hard to obtain for a bargain price, like someone obtained a ton of mercury for few bucks.

charley1957 - 6-11-2020 at 13:28

Texium I agree that openness is better. I have never regretted inviting the local sheriff to my lab. Fundium, I'm guilty also. I once found cold packs on sale for like 50 cents, and I bought all they had. Now I have all these gallon jars full of Ammonium nitrate. Same with Sulfuric acid. I lately bought half a drum of 98% for $150 or so. Now I just need some glass carboys......:(

karlos³ - 6-11-2020 at 16:28

Yeah well, openness is good under a certain point of view.
If you're doing stuff like tryptamine preparation from tryptophan, or worse, the reduction of nitroalkenes to amines.... then, the only thing that openness about it, and a cleanly conducted notebook will result in, is to be a superior piece of evidence.

So much for everyone among us who conducts legally doubtful research.
And I know we aren't that few.

So please take advice from those who have a clean conscience about what is in their labs with a grain of salt.
You still need to keep a lab notebook with accurate notes, as everyone is required to do.
But maybe only for the case if you let the local sheriff or whatever into your lab, for everything else I would recommend to keep it hidden, the real deal at least.
In those noncritical situations where someone without proper education in chemistry is looking at it, it might help you out easily of that situation.
However, in case someone with a proper education, even specialised on forensic chemistry, it can break your neck and counts as evidence....
So find a clean way in between, I suggest electronically saved parts for everything cricital, and the notebook to show for everything inbetween.

Also for that fraction, keep your mouth shut, really shut, to anyone else.
There is no win or benefit into telling anyone about your hobby if your hobby really involves whatever they think you are doing.
If you want to brag, hey then do so, at least you know in that case what it was that made them take away all your beloved things a few months later.
But I can assure you, without having been that stupid to brag or tell anyone, that it will hurt a whole lot for a long time...

Fyndium - 6-11-2020 at 17:33

If you are conceptualizing something that might be off the book, leave it off the book. You can read local regulations what you could do.

Forensic chemists are interested in what's illegal and can be used as an evidence. It's their job to look for evidence on wrongdoing, they don't care stuff that's legal and they're the ones who testify between illegal and legal stuff when there is uncertainty. A logbook of chemical reactions that contain drug or energetic precursors is very fine with them, because there is black and white on a ledger that you did NOT use them in illegal activities. It is vice versa, a non-chemist will see hazardous chemicals everywhere and everything that has GHS sticker on it, will be seized. Professional forensic chemist can separate the interesting stuff within seconds. Of course, an initiated chemist can fool forensics by making false setups for example mislabeling stuff to appear exactly as a reaction that is legal and harmless, but that's why there are analytics.

And for the matter, doing silly or stupid reactions that don't actually work isn't illegal. This is, if you log something that's nonsense, you might state that you were in good faith that it was a viable reaction but didn't work. The chemist will probably just nob their head or laugh at you, not to think that you actually did something very else. For the criminal justice, a evidence must be provided, and it will be hard time for the prosecutor to prove that you did something bad, if all they've got to show is some very amateurish notes. I know a case where a guy actually got off trouble because the notes he made were so off the track that an actual forensic chemist testified that it was extremely unlikely that the person could ever have succeeded making anything illegal, because he was just so bad at chemistry. The case was dropped. I mean, the case went as far as the guy actually admitting on attempted manufacture and still got dropped.

This is, of course, if you're carrying out illegal operations. I suggest not, because it puts a shade over all the legal chemist amateurs there. If you do hobby chemistry, keep a log of all you do, so if someone comes snooping thinking something's off, you can show them everything is perfectly legal to the detail. If you live in a western justice system, I will guarantee that this protects from any judicial issues. I have personally received a notation for exceptionally well detailed descriptions of my activities in another hobby from the licensing office and they kept it as an exemplary way to document it.

I don't personally like to talk about my hobby to anyone who doesn't actually know chemistry, because I've got to explain everything and the average attention span of people is several orders of magnitude shorter than the time needed even for the basics, so it's just easier to think ahead how I conceal it for my personal space only. Even if you did explain, they'll still think that you *could* do meth and you could be a risk and something *could* happen, so don't bother. General consensus nowadays is that if something could happen, it will happen, so everything must be banned and restricted and taken care just in case before.

karlos³ - 6-11-2020 at 18:27

Quote: Originally posted by Fyndium  
This is, if you log something that's nonsense, you might state that you were in good faith that it was a viable reaction but didn't work. The chemist will probably just nob their head or laugh at you, not to think that you actually did something very else. For the criminal justice, a evidence must be provided, and it will be hard time for the prosecutor to prove that you did something bad, if all they've got to show is some very amateurish notes.

In general, but that is actually not the case in the US as far as I know.
There is some supposedly meth yielding recipe going around, something with gun blueing(whatever that is), ammonia and charcoal which obviously doesn't result in any meth.
I've seen mentions of it being done in a closed container and resulting in some crystalline substances, supposed to be the desired product....
But despite that being obviously not what is desired, it can still bring you behind bars in the US, as in that case the intention is what counts :o
At least I've heard that it brought people behind bars, just like selling flour as drugs would have.

Fyndium - 7-11-2020 at 01:32

Oh yes, indeed, the intention matters more than the action. Selling or buying bunk gear believing it's the real deal usually counts as an act because of this. Intention is easy to show when you've got a recipe lying around that states "ammonia + gun blue = methhh". The judicial clause that comes in question in these matters is this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impossibility_defense

In my jurisdiction, getting this to a court will bring a forensic chemist to testify that while some of the components can be used as pre-pre-precursors of something(for reaching: dihydrogen monoxide is a commonly used precursor chemical for many drug synthesis, comparable to acetone, toluene, ether, etc), from those materials it is not a viable synthesis for anything so the case would be dropped.

But by reading this one realizes that you just need to turn this upside down: my intention was NOT to make anything illegal, and that's exactly why you've got that logbook of yours. So having ammonia and Gun Blueing Stuff around doesn't count as attempted manufacture.

charley1957 - 7-11-2020 at 12:42

Well I think openness and an accurate lab notebook will go a very long way toward absolving one of charges of manufacturing illegal drugs. As with anything else, don’t be trying to do something illegal under the table and you cannot possibly be CAUGHT doing anything wrong. If someone turns me in claiming that I’m doing something illegal, and the local sheriff has already seen my lab because I invited him in at some point prior, and my lab notebook accurately reflects what I’ve been doing, and my chemical stock isn’t peppered with precursors, then I don’t have anything to worry about. That’s not to say that someone with a grudge and high connections couldn’t cause you some legal grief. I’m sure it’s happened, but probably way less times than the kind of events that befell Mr. Deebs.