School Science Lab Dangers

By: Paul Aker
By: Paul Aker

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You send the kids to school thinking they'll be safe. But the science lab is hurting more and more kids some critically.

As we saw at Andale high school a few months ago, chemistry classes bring serious dangers. While no one was hurt in the Andale fire, around the country lab experiments are hurting students.

Some experts worry the problem is booming.

Chemistry teacher Tom Gleason knows the explosive potential of the chemicals he keeps locked away in storage.

He says one has to be very selective about the chemicals that are made available to students.

Gleason says his precautions have kept his Valley Center students safe from serious accidents for more than 35 years. but nationwide, students haven't been so lucky.

In a second, Autumn Burton's life changed forever, a high school lab experiment blew up in her face.

Safety experts say Burton's not alone. In recent years lab accidents hurt dozens of kids across the country.

National expert Jack Gerlovich says surveys taken by his laboratory safety institute show accidents are on the rise.

State and Federal authorities set out guidelines for Kansas schools. But some schools are more diligent than others. For example, most districts don't offer ongoing lab training for teachers. Wichita public schools offer some.

Even so, Autumn Burton would like to see all schools improve lab safety even more to keep any other student from becoming scarred for life.

Schools in the Wichita area have been accident free for the past several years. still, national safety advocates say science standards passed in 1996 that call for more hands on training are pushing the safety envelope.

A spokeswoman for the Wichita school district says students also sign a safety first contract before starting classes.

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