If you know any kids in high school chemistry, this is a must watch.

School Experiment That Burned Boy Was Focus of Federal Warning


Only weeks before a chemistry experiment sent a plume of fire across a Manhattan high school science lab, engulfing two students and leaving one with life-threatening burns, a federal safety agency issued a video warning of the dangers of the very same experiment, a common one across the country.

The agency, the United States Chemical Safety Board, distributed the video warning to its 60,000 subscribers, a spokeswoman, Hillary Cohen, said Friday, but it had no sure way to reach individual teachers at schools like Beacon High School on the Upper West Side. There on Thursday, Anna Poole, a young science teacher known for safety consciousness, used methanol as an accelerant to burn dishes of different minerals in the chemistry demonstration known as the Rainbow.

With about 30 students watching from their desks, a snakelike flame tore through the air, missing the students closest to the teacher’s desk, but enveloping Alonzo Yanes, 16, searing and melting the skin on his face and body, according to witnesses. He was in critical condition on Friday in the burn unit of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, Myrna Manners, a hospital spokeswoman, said.

Another student, Julia Saltonstall, 16, saw her thin T-shirt burned off her torso in an instant as some of her long dark hair went up in smoke, her father said. Though she was no farther from the demonstration than Alonzo, she escaped with only first-degree burns.

“She came so close to being so much more badly hurt,” said her father, David Saltonstall, who had just started his first day as policy director for Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, when he got a 9:30 a.m. call from the school nurse that his daughter was in an ambulance heading for the hospital. His daughter called from the ambulance moments later, her voice quavering as she described the terrible accident....

...Other cases when the demonstration caused an explosion and fire include one in September at a middle school in Frisco, Tex., in which one student had to be flown to a burn center for treatment. In a 2004 case in a Seattle high school, the science teacher was severely burned by four-foot flames during the rainbow demonstration, though she was repeating an experiment she had done many times before without incident. As in the 2006 Ohio case in which Ms. Weber and other students were burned, the explosion occurred when the teacher was adding more methanol to one of the dishes. ...

...Methanol is highly flammable and has a very low boiling point, chemistry experts said, so that it quickly produces flammable vapors even at room temperature. Any spark, even static electricity in winter, can ignite them, said David J. Leggett, 68, a veteran consultant on lab safety issues in Playa del Rey, Calif...