Texas Tech University Lab Explosion Raises Nationwide Concerns

A report indicates that school chemistry labs pose serious risks for students.

PHOTO: Getty Images via ABC News

A Texas Tech University graduate student lost three fingers and suffered severe burns and eye damage in a lab explosion last year, and USA Today reports lab students nationwide are susceptible to similar accidents.

USA Today, referencing a report by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), says there have been accidents similar to the Jan. 7, 2010 Texas Tech explosion at 120 school labs in the past decade.

"The report serves as a cautionary tale for universities across the country," CSB’s Daniel Horowitz told USA Today.

USA Today pulled the following incidents from the CSB’s report:

- UCLA graduate student Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji died of burns she suffered in a 2008 chemical fire.

- Four University of Missouri students were injured in a 2010 hydrogen explosion.

- Two University of Maryland students were burned last month in an acid fire.

Preston Brown, the Texas Tech student whose accident was examined in the CSB report, was attempting to produce 100 times more of an explosive compound than the informal lab limit. The research was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, USA Today reports.

According to the report, “the Department of Homeland Security’s $3.6 million project to study explosives detection at 12 universities came with no safety strings attached. Homeland Security shut down project labs for up to 10 months following the incident, and now requires safety procedures.”

"The report lays out a challenge to the academic community, " Neal Langerman of San Diego-based Advanced Chemical Safety Inc. told USA Today. "We really need a 'safety culture' in university labs."

Texas Tech research vice president Taylor Eighmy told USA Today that almost losing a graduate student was “unacceptable.”

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