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Chemical Inventory Control for Use in Education.

Chemical Inventory Control for Use in Education, Natasha Hollbach, MCIC, N Hollbach Consultants Ltd., Almonte, Ont., 1990 ($10). The idea of compiling a list of chemicals which are considered to be safe for use in schools is a good one. Chemical Inventory Control by Natasha Hollbach, MCIC, includes two other lists: one of materials traditionally used in experiments; and one of chemicals which should be removed from schools. The latter two lists include hazard ratings of low, medium or high for each chemical together with comments about some of the chemicals. It is in the assignment of these ratings that I have some concerns about this list. For some chemicals, I am not sure that the hazard rating assigned reflects the real level of danger of the chemical in the classroom. For example, flammable liquids (acetone and the alcohols such as ethanol, methanol, isobutanol and t-butanol) are given high hazard ratings while glacial acetic acid, acetic anhydride and adipoyl chloride whose hazard lies in the inhalation of the vapour are given medium ratings. I believe that a student is at least as likely to be injured by a whiff of acid or acetic anhydride vapour as by a fire involving one of the flammable liquids. Even more surprisingly, sebacoyl chloride is given a low hazard rating. This material is similar to acetic anhydride and adipoyl chloride and has noxious fumes.

I recognize that in compiling this inventory, it was desired to keep it as concise and simple as possible. However, this has resulted in some unusual abbreviations (without definitions), and some chemical names have been split across two columns of the table, sometimes with intervening columns in between. Brevity has also resulted in several chemicals being labelled as carcinogens when they are cancer suspect agents or animal carcinogens, eg. aniline hydrochloride. With the current public concern over carcinogenicity of chemicals, I believe it is important not to add to the misinformation.

I would like to have seen the comments section give a little more detail about the hazard of the chemical, for example, the greatest danger from calcium carbide is its reaction with water to produce acetylene which may explode or catch fire, dry ice can cause severe burns, and sodium sulfide produces hydrogen sulfide on contact with acid.

There is considerable subjectivity involved in giving an overall hazard rating to a chemical. Which property is given greater weight, flammability, toxicity or corrosivity? If the material is used without an ignition source being present, the flammability is not the most important hazard. Also, if the chemical is used only in solution, much of the hazard may be removed, eg. chromium salts.

In summary, although I like the idea of the list, I am concerned about the inconsistencies contained in this list and feel it would have been more useful if more specific information had been included.

Margaret-Ann Armour, FCIC

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Author:Armour, Margaret-Ann
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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