Small Lab Explosion Injures Graduate Student; Cause Is Under Investigation

An MIT graduate student was injured Wednesday in a small lab explosion in Building 16.

An experiment “had an exothermic reaction and exploded,” according to WBZ-TV’s Web site.

The explosion occurred at about 6 p.m. in 16-276, located at the junction between Buildings 16 and 56. The room is part of Professor Angela Belcher’s lab.

The injured student was taken to a nearby hospital, according to the MIT News Office. The student suffered injuries to his hands and arms, according to WBZ-TV.

The student’s injuries were not life-threatening, said David M. Barber of MIT’s Environment, Health and Safety Office. “We believe he will eventually be fine.”

William VanSchalkwyk, managing director of EHS, said the damage to the facility was limited to one table and an adjacent window.

EHS, MIT Police, the Cambridge Fire Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assessed the situation at the site on Wednesday evening.

The room was closed off yesterday as the Cambridge Fire Department investigated what chemicals were used and what caused the explosion. VanSchalkwyk said that Cambridge Fire Department had completed its investigation on Thursday, though the results have not yet been released.

The Cambridge Fire investigations unit did not immediately return a call for comment.

“In general, any time we have any incident where there has been a spill or a release in the laboratory, once it is stable and once the investigation has taken place, there’s a clean-up that has to be done,” Barber said. “An environmental contractor comes in and decontaminates.” EHS then tests the area to make sure the lab is safe to reenter.

The lab was cleaned and was expected to return to service yesterday, according to the News Office. But yesterday evening, the lab was still closed off.

Students in Belcher’s lab declined to comment and directed questions to the MIT News Office. Belcher declined to comment yesterday.