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The chemistry lab

The chemistry lab

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What does the warning symbol with liquid being poured on a hand mean?

The chemistry lab

Experimenting and studying what happens in the real world, to many people, is the most fascinating side of chemistry. In the chemistry lab you can test your idea - your hypothesis - to see if it is correct. In the chemistry lab, you'll find bubbling liquids, smoking containers, powder in many colors, bottles with dangerous contents and gasses that stink. Plungers, bunsen burners, microscopes, scales, measuring cylinders, fume hoods, and test tubes with exciting contents are all part of the equipment in most chemistry labs. All these things are needed to examine what happens if you alter different substances during an experiment, for example, by mixing or heating them.

Large companies in the chemistry business often have labs with many scientists. But even the lab in your school can be advanced. And, most of all, dangerous if you don't follow a few simple rules... Every lab has a manager; at school that's your Science teacher but the lab is not like a regular classroom. Once you are inside, make sure there is no furniture blocking where people have to walk.

You must be able to move freely around the lab at all times. Also look for the closest exit, in case anything should go wrong. Now it's time to kit yourself out like a real scientist. Put on a lab coat and safety glasses. Wash your hands, and if needed, use protective gloves.

Some experiments involve mixing different substances. Other experiments heat them up. Some substances freeze, smoke, bubble and even explode. So if you're not sure what's inside a container, ask your teacher. Don't go tasting or smelling it.

It might be dangerous - and even hazardous to inhale. Most containers in the lab have signs on them to warn you about what's inside. The warning symbol "poisonous" looks like this. This container holds something that can explode. Here is something that can start to burn.

Make sure you don't spill any of this liquid - it's corrosive. Some substances are harmful to the environment - and cannot be poured down the sink - nor thrown in normal trash. Watch out for substances that are dangerous to inhale, or that have to be handled carefully to avoid health hazards. There are also rules for how you should mix different things. If, for example, you were to pour water into a strong acid...

No! JENNY! STOP! Okay. We'll do that again.

There is an important rule to remember here: "Do like you oughta, add acid into water." Some acids become hot when they come into contact with water. But if you carefully pour the acid into the water, you can make sure that the liquid doesn't become so hot that it starts to boil. Therefore: Add acid into water. The chemistry lab, then - the place where you follow your teacher's instructions and are careful with dangerous substances. Because then, the lab can become the most fun place in the whole school!

And one more thing! Always wash your hands before you leave the lab, so that you don't have the remains of dangerous substances left on your hands.