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Name: Holly P.
Status: educator
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

I want to do flame tests with my students. I have lithium nitrate, barium chloride, and potassium chloride. Do these or others give off dangerous fumes? I will not be using any lead. Thanks so much!

It is always best to do any experiments that may give off vapors in some sort of hood. The lithium nitrate may give off some NO2 which has a very acrid smell. You want to avoid any "smoke" you see coming from the flame, but the dangers are fairly minimal because the sample size on the wire or loop should only be a milligram or two. Following good lab procedure should avoid skin contact. Chemistry experiments almost always involve some risk, but these flame tests have been done in high school and even junior highs or middle schools for generations, so they are about as safe as it gets, and there is a lot of history to confirm that.

Vince Calder

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