Accident Reported in UC Merced Research Lab

MERCED - A minor chemical explosion occurred in a research laboratory in the Science & Engineering building on the UC Merced campus at about 2:45 p.m. today (Nov. 8). The building was immediately evacuated and temporarily closed. One portion of the building will remain closed until at least tomorrow. Classrooms in the building were not affected.

Eric Josephs, a UC Merced graduate student, was taken immediately by ground transport to the Fresno Regional burn unit. His age and city of residence are unknown at this time. The victim received cuts to his hands and face from an exploding beaker that contained nitric acid and butanol, as well as burns to his forearms and face. No other people were in the laboratory at the time of the explosion. No other injuries have been reported.

The UC Merced Police Department responded immediately to the call. In addition, Merced city and county fire crews, a HazMat squad and a rescue crew were dispatched to the scene per protocol.

Butanol is an alcohol with low toxicity in single-dose experiments and is considered safe enough for use in cosmetics. It is used as a solvent for a wide variety of chemical and textile processes, in organic synthesis and as a chemical intermediate. Nitric acid (HNO3) is a highly corrosive and toxic strong acid that can cause severe burns.

Classes in the Science & Engineering building will resume as scheduled Monday, Nov. 10.

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