I too was ‘confused?’ when I read the headlines this morning. My first thought when I read the first one you mentioned was that there must have been a drum of nitric spilled to warrant a hazmat team and evacuation of the building. The second story said maybe a liter of acid was spilled. This certainly would not warrant such a response. Did you notice that it supposedly took 23 firefighters just to neutralize the spill? (That part sounds like a “How many _____does it take to change a light bulb?” joke.) As for the part about melting the Cu tubing….. Give me a break. Nitric will react with Cu. Maybe some nitric splashed on some tubing, but this would not be a melting. Neutralization reactions are exothermic, but the melting point of Cu is over 1000 C! It would be interesting to know what really happened.
Safety is of utmost importance. That is a given. However, part of working safely is not just recognizing when there is some danger, but recognizing the degree. It’s like the old joke about what do you get when you try to use a sledge hammer to kill a fly? A happy fly and a hole in the wall. The headlines are full of over-reactions. Some say better safe than sorry, but you then end up with students, and others, who can’t recognize true danger. This is when things can go very wrong, as we have seen.
Class. Which of these two completely different stories is true?
TUCSON FIRE: UA STUDENT TAKES QUICK ACTION IN ACID SPILL
A quick-thinking UA student threw sodium bicarbonate on a chemical spill ina science lab Monday, which helped prevent any injuries.
Tucson Fire Department firefighters responded to the spill involving nitric acid shortly after noon at the Shantz Building and had the incident under control at 1:44 p.m., Tucson Fire Capt. Jeff Langejans said.
Four students were in the lab in the 1100 block of East Fourth Street when the spill occurred, Langejans said. One student threw the sodium bicarbonate onthe nitric acid, and then pulled the fire alarm.
ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT : NITRIC ACID SPILL FORCES EVACUATION OF SHANTZ
A spilled container of nitric acid forced the evacuation of the Shantz building on Monday. Officers on scene said no one was hurt in the accident.
The spill occurred when a glass container filled with nitric acid dropped and broke. According to Tucson Fire Prevention Capt. Jeff Langejans, someone tried to neutralize the spill with sodium bicarbonate, causing an exothermic reaction that melted the copper piping on compressed air containers in the lab. SNIP
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