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Chemistry Classroom Fire Renews Concerns About the ‘Rainbow Experiment’

Last week, a fire broke out in a chemistry class at a Fairfax, Va., high school, sending five students to the hospital with chemical burns. One student with more severe injuries will need surgeries on her face. The teacher who conducted the experiment also suffered minor burns, according to reports. 

Students from the class said that the teacher, who has not commented, poured flammable liquid onto a desk and lit it with a Bunsen burner. She then introduced different chemicals to show how they altered the color of the flames. It’s a version of a well-known but decidedly risky demonstration known as the “rainbow experiment,” in which methanol is used to ignite different types of salts.