CE&N reported that “On Sept. 3, a demonstrator at a museum in Reno, Nev., was attempting to create a colored “fire tornado” when she poured methanol from a 4-L container onto a smoldering cotton ball. On Sept. 15, a teacher at a high school in Denver was demonstrating flammable properties when he poured methanol from a 4-L container onto an open flame. On Oct. 20, a Cub Scout group trying to produce a green flame poured methanol-containing antifreeze from a 355-mL bottle onto a fire in Raymond, Ill. And on Oct. 31, high school students in Chicago were also using methanol to create a green flame. In at least the first three cases—the fourth is still being investigated—the fire propagated back into the fuel bottles and ignited the remaining liquid, CSB investigator Mark Wingard says. Pressure built up in the containers and the fiery fluid was expelled, burning people in the vicinity. In the Denver incident, the fire “shot out about 12 feet and hit a student in the chest, resulting in serious burn injuries to the student,” the CSB bulletin says.”
Full article can be accessed: http://cen.acs.org/articles/92/i46/Improving-Chemistry-Demonstration-Safety.html
When designing and conducting chemistry demonstrations, safety must be assessed and carefully considered. Chemistry demonstrations are unique vehicles to engage and to inspire young students. They are also opportunity to introduce safety as an integral component of scientific experimentation.