Potentially unstable chemical causes class cancelations

April 13th, 2010

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NEWBERG, Ore. – A George Fox University laboratory employee identified a small bottle of picric acid that had crystallized and become potentially explosive, causing the evacuation of several buildings and the cancellation of some classes in Newberg on Tuesday, April 13.

The material was safely removed by the Oregon State Bomb Squad and the buildings reopened at about noon. There were no injuries.

The picric acid – stored in ethyl alcohol – had last been used in an engineering material science lab a year ago, but had crystallized. The three-inch-tall bottle was nearly empty and included less than three grams of picric acid. Picric acid is stable when stored in liquid, but potentially explosive when dry and exposed to shock. In liquid form, picric acid is mildly acidic and is more likely to stain skin than to burn.

After identifying the crystallized picric acid as potentially explosive, university security contacted the Newberg Police Department to request help with disposal. Also consulted were the Tualatin Valley Fire Department and the Lab Safety Institute.

While on site, the bomb squad disposed of a second 50-milliliter bottle of the acid, which was stored in liquid but a potential future hazard. The university rarely used the substance and will no longer stock it.

Students were evacuated from the Edwards-Holman Science Center and seven other campus buildings that surround the academic quadrangle. Students were alerted using a campus-wide emergency phone alert system and via e-mail. Classes on the quad side of the Newberg campus were canceled until 5 p.m. All offices are now open.

The lab employee undergoes annual training at the National Association of Scientific Materials Managers.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes as one of the top 100 colleges in the country and highest among Christian colleges. George Fox is the only Christian university in the Pacific Northwest classified by U.S. News & World Report as a national university. More than 3,300 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem, and Redmond, Ore., and Boise, Idaho. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 12 master’s and doctoral degrees.

Rob Felton
Director of Public Information
rfelton@georgefox.edu
503-554-2129

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