Science Class Injuries Are Rare, Experts Say

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chemistry class accidents like the one at a southwest suburban high school that recently injured a 16-year-old are relatively rare, but no federal or state agencies track such incidents, experts say.

The U.S. Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education don't record lab experiments gone awry, they said.

"No one really knows how often this occurs, but if it were happening routinely, students just wouldn't take these classes," said William Hunter, a chemistry professor at Illinois State University. "I probably hear about one incident every three to four years."

The issue of safety in the science classroom was highlighted recently when a student at Richards High School in Oak Lawn was injured after a plastic bottle containing dry ice and water exploded, according to a lawsuit filed this month in Cook County Circuit Court.

Dillon Mantia, 16, of Chicago Ridge, was in chemistry class on Sept. 13 when a teacher combined nuggets of dry ice and water in a plastic bottle, sealed it tightly and then instructed the students to pass it among themselves "to feel and observe the pressure building up" in the bottle, the lawsuit said.

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