HAZMAT team called to clean up chemical spill at SHSU

HAZMAT team called to clean up chemical spill at SHSU

Source: The Huntsville Item (TX), February 15, 2011
By: Matthew Jackson

Sam Houston State University officials evacuated the campus’ Chemistry and Forensic Science building for more than three hours Tuesday morning after a teacher’s assistant spilled a small amount of bromine in a laboratory.

The spill occurred just before 8 a.m. and required a Walker County HAZMAT team to ventilate the area and clean up the five milliliter spill. No one was injured, but precautions were taken due to bromine’s high toxicity.

“Bromine is a dangerous toxic chemical. It’s chemically similar to chlorine,” said Dr. Rick Norman, chair of the SHSU Department of Chemistry. “If the level is too high, you will die, just like if you breathe chlorine gas for too long. Lesser effects are lung irritation or eye irritation, probably skin irritation.”

Norman said bromine is not commonly used in SHSU laboratories, but a small vial was being used by a teaching assistant during a brief demonstration Tuesday morning. The vial was tipped onto the floor and shattered, causing the spill. The teaching assistant contacted the building’s safety and inventory supervisor, who contacted university public safety officials.

The building was cleared and reopened shortly before 11:30 a.m.

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