Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rainbow flame incident injures 3 students in Florida

The Tallahassee Democrat's Amanda Curcio reports:
A chemistry experiment gone wrong injured three Lincoln High School students Friday morning. 
Leon County Emergency Medical Services responded to the call, along with the Tallahassee Fire Department and the Sheriff's Office. Two students were admitted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital with burns suffered during the incident, and another student was released to parental care. Both hospitalized students are in stable condition, confirmed Chris Petley, spokesman for Leon County Schools. 
A flame test being demonstrated by an experienced teacher during an AP chemistry class resulted in the accident. 
"The teacher is devastated," Principal Allen Burch said. "But she handled everything correctly." 
Burch said that students were wearing protective gear and that the teacher had successfully carried out flame tests in the past. His first concern is the students' recovery.
"As far as next steps – we'll sit down and look at how the flame test was conducted," he added. "We'll see how or if we missed anything." 
A flame test is designed to analyze mineral salts. Flames produced from burning a substance in question emit certain colors, allowing observers to determine the presence of specific elements. Several elements in a type of a common flame test called the rainbow experiment release vivid colors and can be fascinating to watch, especially for students. 
However, a string of disastrous accidents in high school chemistry labs in the U.S. indicates that the experiment – despite education or entertainment value – may not be worth conducting at all, according to national media reports....
Just a little reminder that the American Chemical Society's Committee on Chemical Safety specifically asks teachers to "Stop Using the Rainbow Demonstration."  


  1. If this is the same as a "Beilstein test", then I am surprised to hear that this is still being conducted, nowadays.

    1. Not the same. Beilsterin uses copper wire, the "rainbow flame demo" involves watch glasses filled with methanol and ignited.

  2. Unstable IsotopeMay 28, 2015 at 6:29 AM

    I'm tired of seeing story like these say that the demonstration had been performed successfully before. So what? It doesn't mean they performed the deonstration safely.

    1. Like T2. "Well, we did it 175 times before with no backup cooling and a significant exotherm, so it'll be fine this time, no matter what those other people say."

  3. Did you hear the one about the exploding pumpkin?
    UIC Prep student sues school, teacher after exploding pumpkin experiment
    by Dawn Rhodes
    Chicago Tribune
    October 30, 2015, 6:59 AM
    "A student at a Near West Side charter school is suing for injuries she says she suffered when a pumpkin exploded in a class science experiment."

    "The lawsuit alleges that Donati was attempting to mix boric acid and methanol inside a pumpkin to demonstrate the effects of the combined chemicals. At some point, there was an explosion and Romero, then 17, was injured."

    "Romero is seeking at least $50,000 in damages."