Agency Urges a Change in School Science Demos


The U.S. Chemical Safety Board has urged museums and schools to stop using methanol and other flammable chemicals in science demonstrations in light of a flash fire that injured 13 people, most of them children, at museum earlier this month. (Associated Press)

Use our resources to learn more about chemistry, and thanks to esteemed colleague Samantha for the heads-up on this great current event connection.

Read this statement from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and watch this video from Flinn Scientific about unsafe use of methanol in chemistry demonstrations.

Discussion Ideas


  • Using methanol in school and museum science demonstrations has a long history. If a school or institution is not ready to listen to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, what are some safety precautions all educators should follow when conducting experiments with methanol? (Watch the video above for some hints.)
    • Follow a safety checklist! Here’s a good one from the good folks at NSTA, and here’s one to share with students.
    • The chemists in the video suggest some general precautions:
      • Always conduct experiments and demonstrations in a clean, well-defined space, and never have students or participants very close to the chemical reaction.
      • Always make sure students and participants wear protective gear—including safety goggles and hairnets.
      • Dispense alcohol (such as methanol) in small amounts.
      • Cap the bottle of alcohol and move it far away from the experiment.
      • Never add fuel to a fire. Do not pour alcohol onto a hot surface, flame, or other ignition source. Never add alcohol once a demonstration is underway.
    • Get certified! Flinn Scientific offers free lab-safety certification courses.

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