While I agree (mainly) in principle with Ernest, there are s ome things that really should come off of the list. An obvious example (a nd I’m being extreme here, not intending to imply Ernest wouldn’t agree) is benzene. I’m sure we’d all agree that this is a solvent that simply shou ld not be used under any circumstances.
But Ernest’s point is spot-on. If all we do is ‘dumb down’ the content of labs and remove all possible hint of danger, we exacerbate the problem of a society full of chemophobic individu als who simply do not know how to handle any chemical, much less make a rational decision as to whether a given situation is really a problem or not. Heck, if this is going to be our response (i.e. let’s remo ve all danger from the lab), we might as well discontinue ‘real’ l abs and just do the whole thing as an online & virtual experience. Ta ke a video of the experiment and let the kiddies watch it.
I think we do our students (and, ultimately, society itself) a disservice when we immediately presume that we must be the nanny-protector from all harm. The real world does not operate this way (ambulance-chasing , TV ad-trolling trial lawyers notwithstanding). Far better to teach them what the real issues are and how to think critically through a situation to asse ss it, and to actually perform, hands-on, real chemical reactions with real chemicals and reagents – some of which can harm them – to demon strate that, with proper handling, care and understanding, chemicals can and do perform wonderful things for us.
I’ll get off my soapbox now.
Dr. Bradley K. Norwood
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I guess I am "Old School" but it is hardly possible to teach (or practice) chemistry without some exposure to more or less dangerous chemicals. What needs to be taught is how to handle chemicals saf ely, not how to handle only safe chemicals. We must be careful not to occupationally regulate ourselves out of existence.
On Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 3:51 PM, Russell Vernon <russell.vernon**At_Symbol_Here**ucr.edu> wrote :
I found out today that one of our teaching labs is conducted an extraction experiment with dichloromethane (caffeine from coffee)
I would like to provide them a reasonable alternative extraction experiment w ith an occupationally regulated carcinogen…
If you have a recommendation to look at, would you please contact me?
Russell Vernon, Ph.D.
Environmental Health & Safety
University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave
Riverside, CA 92521
Direct (951) 827-5119
Admin (951) 827-5528
Fax (951) 827-5122
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