University evacuates science building after cyanide spill
Pere Tribune-Herald staff writer
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
hundred people were evacuated from Baylor University=92s science
building at about 3 p.m. Tuesday after a vial of cyanide cracked and
splashed a small amount of the toxic chemical on a student=92s lab
The chemistry graduate student, a female whose name
wasn=92t released, was not injured. She was checked by paramedics at the
scene, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said.
student was handling a shipping container in a chemistry lab when a vial
of isobutyl cyanide slipped out of the container and cracked when it
fell on a bench, Fogleman said. Less than a milliliter of the chemical
escaped the vial. A professor was also in the lab at the time of the
spill, but he wasn=92t injured.
Fogleman said the student
went through all the proper procedures for a chemical emergency. She
activated the alarm system, reported the spill and evacuated the
=93We train for accidents and emergencies throughout
the year, and the training worked,=94 said Jill Scoggins, assistant vice
president for media communications at Baylor.
hazardous materials crew brought in sand to absorb the chemical. The
tainted sand and the cyanide vial were placed in a fume cupboard, which
ventilates and neutralizes the chemical, said Rob Barlow, acting
assistant fire chief. Police blocked Bagby Avenue from University Parks
Drive to Second Street for several hours so Waco fire and hazardous
materials crews could access the building. Barlow said he had never
previously dealt with a cyanide spill.
students and faculty huddled under umbrellas in a steady downpour while
they waited for the all-clear to re-enter the building.
Harris, a biology and pre-med student at Baylor, was studying in the
science building when he heard an alarm saying there had been an
=93It kind of is shocking,=94 Harris said. =93It=92s
weird to have your books out and then have to get out.=94
building was reopened just before 6 p.m.
Chemical spill clears BSB
Oct. 14, 2009
Student breaks vial of
Jed Dean | Photo editor
respond to a chemical spill in the Baylor Sciences Building Tuesday
afternoon. The building was closed around 3:00 and was re-opened just
before 6 p.m.
By Liz Foreman
The Baylor Sciences Building was evacuated for more
than two hours Tuesday after a hazardous chemical spill that occurred
around 3 p.m. in a second-floor chemistry lab.
graduate student, whose name has not been released, was handling the
contents of a shipping container in lab E253R, when the vial of
tert-Butyl isocyanide hit a bench and cracked, spilling less than one
milliliter onto the floor and her lab coat, said Lori Fogleman, director
of media communications.
The Lariat initially reported on its Web site that the
chemical spilled was Cyanide. However, the chemical was tert-Butyl
isocyanide, said Dr. Bruce Dobson, a chemistry lecturer who was
overseeing work in the lab.
Waco Fire Department Acting Assistant Chief Rob Barlow
releases an official statement to the media following the spill of what
was confirmed as tert-Butyl isocyanide.
tert-Butyl isocyanide is an odorous, highly flammable
chemical that can be toxic by inhalation, according to the Material
Safety Data Sheet provided by the Occupational Safety and Health
Fogleman said the student was checked at the scene but
not treated for any injuries. No one else was injured in the incident.
Waco Fire Department and its Hazmat team were called to contain the
In addition to evacuating the building while the spill
was cleaned, Bagby Avenue between University Parks and Second Street was
The Hazmat team acted to contain the toxic chemical by
using sand to absorb it, then transferring the contaminated sand into a
container, which was put under a ventilated hood in the research lab to
be neutralized, said Rob Barlow, Waco Fire Department acting assistant
chief present at the scene.
Once the chemical was placed under the fume hood, the
self-ventilated lab was sealed off for the night, said Jill Scoggins,
assistant vice president for media communications.
has self-contained airflow that does not mix with air outside the room,
The Baylor Sciences Building was re-opened to
students, faculty and staff at roughly 5:45 p.m.
"Fortunately we had a researcher who followed
procedure and stayed safe," Fogleman said.
spill occurred, Fogleman said, the student placed the vial into the fume
hood -- a vacuum contraption that neutralizes the toxicity of fumes
within it -- then activated an alarm and called the Baylor Police
Chemistry Professor Dr. David Pennington said that
shortly after the accident, the student involved went to his office to
ensure that the Department of Risk Management had been
"The student had on protective eyewear, gloves, long
pants and closed shoes, Pennington said, "She was fully