Bomb squad called to Dublin lab


An Army bomb disposal unit today carried out a controlled explosion on an unstable chemical at a laboratory in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.

Authorities at the college on St Stephen's Green contacted the emergency services shortly before 12.30pm after an internal audit of the lab found the chemical had degraded to a dangerous state.

Following an examination of the chemical by the bomb disposal team, the chemical was deemed unsafe to transport and was subsequently made safe through a controlled explosion on nearby waste ground.

The offending material is understood to have been 30g of picric acid, a potentially explosive substance which is commonly used by laboratories in the analysis of metals and ores.

When the substance goes beyond a certain timeframe, it can become dangerous to transport.

A Defence Forces spokesman said the detonation of such an unstable chemical could cause serious injury or even death depending on the proximity of the person. He said Army personnel in the bomb disposal unit were trained to deal with such chemicals.

Although much of the work of the unit was taken up with the management and defusal of improvised explosives devices, it was not uncommon for the unit to be called out to deal with these types of incidents, he said.

Pitric acid was originally used in the munitions industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of its highly explosive nature.  However, shells filled with the acid were observed to be become highly unstable over time and to corrode the bomb casings.

The use of pitric acid in the manufacture of munitions was eventually replaced by TNT (Trinitrotoluene) and other less corrosive substances.