Blast at MSU caused by chemical reaction, police say

Holly Fournier and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Police say a chemical reaction caused a small explosion Friday at Michigan State University that forced the evacuation Friday of rooms surrounding a laboratory in Giltner Hall.

An unsealed container of isopentane in a refrigerator caused the chemical reaction. The chemical is used in laboratories with liquid nitrogen to flash freeze biological samples. It is often used in cosmetics, including shaving gel, some toothpastes and body wash.

“A spark caused an explosion of the flammable vapor,” police wrote in a statement Friday. “The force was large enough to blow off the door to the refrigerator and break the windows more than 20 feet away.”

No one was in the room when the blast occurred around 10:45 a.m., Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said. No injuries have been reported.

“It was a small explosion that was isolated to one room,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “Only the surrounding rooms were evacuated.”

Damage to the room includes two broken windows, she said.

Campus police responded after the blast along with the East Lansing Fire Department and the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, which is headquartered inside Giltner, McGlothian-Taylor said.

Giltner Hall is located at 293 Farm Lane, just north of the Auditorium and Red Cedar River.

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