Letters to the editor

  • Response to E.J. Behrman’s letter in February 2015, regarding the article “Don’t mail matches” in November 2014 issue of Chem 13 News

For many years in the UK we have operated a scheme that was suggested in Professor Behrman’s letter. At CLEAPSS1 we call the scheme “risk assessing” and by having a National (prosecuting) government body called the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) — which has never challenged our advice — students can wear safety spectacles2 when using solids and solutions classified as irritant to the eyes but will wear goggles when the chemical poses a serious risk or is corrosive to the eyes. The HSE find that people will tolerate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) only if it is comfortable. So, for example, we advise schools to not use 0.5 M sodium hydroxide solution (corrosive) but 0.4 M (irritant) so that safety spectacles can be used. In the 20 years at CLEAPSS, no student has suffered blindness in the school.

Safety should be proportionate to the risk. People will drive cars, play rugby, climb mountains, play American football, ski, shoot guns, play squash (the squash ball fits the eye socket perfectly!) and yet be paranoid using chemicals.


  1. CLEAPSS is an advisory service in the UK providing support in science and technology for schools in local authorities, fee-paying and non-fee paying independent schools and colleges including establishments for pupils with special needs. http://www.cleapss.org.uk/
  2. Spectacles are safety “glasses” and just cover the eyes. Goggles surround and enclose the eyes for better protection. Goggles are often less comfortable than glasses.

Bob Worley
Uxbridge UK 

  • Re: "Whoosh" bottle demonstration, Chem 13 News,
    March 2015 issue.

I have followed with interest the discussion of the ‘Whoosh bottle’ demonstration. I appreciate my fellow teachers' input.

In addition to a safety shield between the bottle and the students, who are standing at the back of the room, I place another shield to the side of the bottle to protect (little 'ol) me. I wear ear protection as well as safety glasses and a lab coat.

Michael P. Jansen <mjansen@crescentschool.org>
Crescent School
Toronto ON