CSB: Accidents in High School Labs Occur with "Alarming Frequency"

Published January 15, 2014

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released a statement in response to the Jan. 2 laboratory accident at a New York City high school in which two 10th grade students were injured when a chemistry demonstration caused a flash fire.

"The CSB believes that accidents in high school laboratories occur with alarming frequency," said CSB Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso. "[This] incident is yet another reminder of the need for exacting safety measures to protect students and school property."

One student suffered severe burns on his face and neck and remained in critical condition as of last week, and another was burned on her hand, The New York Times reported. The demonstration, commonly known as the "rainbow experiment," used highly flammable methanol and was meant to show how various mineral salts produce different colored flames when burned. For additional information about the accident, see a more recent Times article.

Three weeks before the accident, the CSB released a video safety message that focused on potential dangers in high school chemistry laboratories. The video, titled "After the Rainbow," features an interview with accident survivor Calais Weber, who was burned over 40 percent of her body during a "rainbow experiment" demonstration in 2006. Watch the video on CSB's website.