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August 18, 2011

Chemical explosion injures Pa. graduate student

By Rachel Weaver
Pittsburgh Tribune Review

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A chemical explosion on Wednesday at the University of Pittsburgh's Chevron Science Center burned a graduate student on his face, chest and arms.

The student, 30, was working in a hooded research area in Room 1123 about 10 a.m. when his beaker, which contained mercury perchlorate hydrate, broke. The chemical can explode if not handled properly, but the cause of the incident remains under investigation.

The student was conscious when medics took him to UPMC Presbyterian in stable condition, said police, who did not release the man's name or say how severe his burns were.

Safety officials evacuated the building at the corner of Bigelow Boulevard and Parkman Avenue. Pitt Police Chief Timothy Delaney did not know how many people were in the building at the time of the explosion.

School is not in session. The building is the university's chemistry center and is a mix of classrooms and labs. Pitt spokesman John Fedele said researchers work at the center year-round.

Construction workers on the seventh floor said they assumed it was a drill when the fire alarm went off.

"We didn't hear (an explosion)," said Tyler Hummel, 30, of Beaver.

Delaney said there was no structural damage to the building. Pittsburgh emergency responders secured the building afterward. All floors were reopened by noon.

As of late yesterday afternoon, the victim remained in stable condition at the hospital, Fedele said.

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