From: "Secretary, ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety" <secretary**At_Symbol_Here**DCHAS.ORG>
Subject: [DCHAS-L] China's Laboratory Safety Must be Highlighted, Improved
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 2015 08:19:19 -0500
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A funeral ceremony was held today for post-doctoral researcher Meng Xiangjian who was killed in a laboratory explosion last week at Tshinghua University.

The tragedy has triggered public concerns on laboratory safety in colleges and universities.

CRI's Qian Shanming has more.

Tsinghua University released the initial investigation results provided by Haidian Public Security Bureau a few days ago, which revealed that a hydrogen cylinder exploded accidentally, and the whole lab then caught fire. Meng Xiangjian died as the result of severe injuries to his leg.

It is not clear whether the cylinder itself had quality problems or that it had been badly stored.

Professor Wang Xiaojun from South China University of Technology says staff must pay attention to the safety of gas cylinders.

"Such high-pressure cylinders must go through security checks annually. If a cylinder is due to expire or may have air leak, it should not be used anymore."

Laboratory accidents have become more common in recent years. Back in 2008, a doctor candidate in Yunnan University suffered severe disfigurement and lost his feet and in an explosion during a microbiological experiment. Six months ago this year, a laboratory explosion at China University of Mining and Technology left one student dead and five others injured.

Associate professor Li Zhihong from Public Security and Fire Fighting Forces Academy has carried out a survey into the causes of 100 typical laboratory accidents. The results show 58 percent of the accidents were caused by human error.

"Human error includes violation of operation rules, careless or wrong operation, improper handling of experiment waste, and the improper storage of chemical reagents."

Other laboratory accidents are caused by aging experiment equipment, equipment failings and short circuits.

Wu Yiqun, a researcher with the Chinese Center For Disease Control And Prevention, says that while many institutes have storage and distribution regulations on hazardous articles, the problem is that few of them strictly follow the rules.

"For example, potassium cyanide is very hazardous which can endanger a person's life easily. So the distribution of potassium cyanide must be strictly controlled. People who want to get potassium cyanide must deliver a report in advance, and the quantity must be checked by the keeper. We do have such rules. But does every unit abide by the rule? Or is there a supervision system? I think some units ignore those rules."

To ensure the safety of laboratories, some experts suggest installing probes to sound an alarm if a leak of flammable and explosive gas is detected.

It is also suggested that universities and colleges should hold regular safety checks and accident drills so that researchers can learn to exit timely from the spot.

The chemistry department of Tsinghua University designated December 18, the day the tragedy happened, as Safety Education Day. The university also promised to publish compensation details and the latest investigation results on their Weibo account.

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