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Two injured in U.Md. chem lab explosion

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Two University of Maryland students were injured Monday in the College Park campus's Chemistry Building when a chemical reaction caused an explosion and small fire in the lab where they were working.

The two women were taken to a hospital with first-degree chemical burns and minor lacerations but were in good condition, Prince George's County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said. The explosion occurred during an afternoon chemistry class as students were working with nitric and sulfuric acid.

"Typically these are friendly acids that work well together, but when they dumped the chemicals into a chemical waste container, that was what caused the explosion and fire," Mr. Brady said.

The four-story building was evacuated after the explosion and a small fire were reported on the third floor at about 12:30 p.m. University employees attempted to extinguish the fire before smoke and vapor drove them out of the lab, Mr. Brady said. Firefighters who responded to the lab were quickly able to extinguish the fire.

About 11 people were in the lab when the fire broke out, but only the two students were injured.

The Chemistry Building remained closed for most of the afternoon as hazardous materials teams decontaminated the third floor lab, the site of the explosion.

Damage was mostly confined to the lab's ventilation hood system, which is designed to contain fires or vapor from chemical reactions, Mr. Brady said.

A cost estimate for the damage was not immediately available.

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