Safety concerns arise as improperly stored TNT found in Chemistry building

A bomb squad destroyed a number of unstable chemicals found in the Wellcome building in recent weeks

Unstable chemicals, including TNT, have been found and subsequently destroyed in a Chemistry lab in the Wellcome Building. The chemicals, which were unaccounted for in the department’s logs and incorrectly stored, are believed to have been brought into the lab by a former PhD student, who is now facing disciplinary action.

In an email seen by Trinity News, Dr. Robert Baker, Safety Officer for the School of Chemistry, said: “As some of you may be aware, last week the Bomb Squad came to dispose of some old unstable chemicals that were discovered in the Wellcome building. These were mainly picric acid, picric sulfonic acid and unidentified picrate salts along with some hydrazines. Most of these are, in competent hands, not a huge problem but must be stored correctly – in a box or horribly corroded metal can on a shelf in direct sunlight for 7 years is of course not correct.”

Dr. Baker continued: “One of the three controlled explosions surprised the bomb squad in its intensity and there was enough force to blow a sandbag into the tree. Please reread that sentence.” Dr Baker also warned: “You do not want to be in the position of having a coworker or member of housekeeping injured or killed. Remember that one of the explosions surprised the bomb squad.“

However, in a statement to Trinity News, Dr. Robert Baker contradicted the information given in his earlier email, saying: “The School has initiated a review of its chemical stock in response to a Faculty wide request from the College Safety Officer. This was prompted by the external disposal of hazardous materials as part of the development of the Old Biotechnology site. The bomb squad has not been called to the School of Chemistry. Any hazardous materials held in the School of Chemistry are for legitimate research purposes.”

Dr. Baker asked all principal investigators to “look through their laboratories for potentially explosive compounds” and “email me with confirmation that you have checked and found nothing, or that something has come to light”.

Niamh Lynch

Niamh was Editor of the 65th volume of Trinity News. She is a History and Politics graduate.