To reiterate Paul's main point: yes, the labs in question should not have been so easy to access. Most of the academic labs I've worked in have had key card / ID fob access built into the doors, and critical facilities (storerooms, NMR, clean rooms) behind keypad-locked doors, or good old-fashioned metal lock and key.
Cogent arguments aside, the piece fails on just about every level for meaningful chemistry communication. Here's a random sampling of quotes from the story:
0:10 "...just the right chemicals to make a bomb?"
Well, most bombs require high explosives, like nitroglycerin or TNT. As most readers of this blog realize, materials such as iodine or hydrazine - unlike the dilute HCl or ethyl ether featured in the news spot - can actually be used to make bombs, and are under strict DOT and DHS purchase regulations.
0:53 - What's with the gunshots? Since when did that have anything to do with organic chemistry labs?
1:16 - "Compounds that could potentially be used in terrorist attacks"
While (potentially) true, you're more likely to find allyl alcohol in drug leads, and acrylonitrile in superglue!
|A real-live chemical storeroom (not caught on tape, sadly)|
Credit: University of Delaware / Fisher Scientific
1:35 - "...inside this glass case..." Did you mean a fume hood, perchance? ...which improves lab safety?
2:43 - "...chemistry lab and storeroom." Have these people ever seen a chemical storeroom?
2:50 - "...cabinets, some unlocked, labeled ACIDS and FLAMMABLES."
Were the researchers supposed to just store them in plain gray cabinets? I would argue that the labels increase safety. Also, if they were allegedly "unlocked," why is there no camera shot of a cabinet door hanging open?
3:05 - "...large nitrogen tanks..." If the announcer knew that he was referring to liquid nitrogen, he'd be doubly afraid!
3:54 - "...hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive chemical that can burn skin to the bone"
This bottle reminds me of the 1.0N HCl shown earlier (1:29). If anyone's wondering, the pH of 1N HCl is 0.1, which, while enough to give you some decent skin irritation, won't char you on contact. I see no concentrated HCl anywhere, and even that's no TFA or triflic acid.
4:07 - "...ethyl ether, a highly flammable solvent that could cause respiratory problems!"
Or knock you out for surgery, like in the olden days at the MGH Ether Dome.
6:01 - "schools must list their chemicals of interest, but only if those chemicals exceed a certain amount"
This sounds an awful lot like "the dose makes the poison." (i.e., it's terribly tough to mount a terrorist attack with 25 g of magnesium sulfate...)
**Just for those keeping score at home, I counted 26 mentions of the word "chemical" (or once every 14.4 seconds). Always preceded by a sensationalist adjective like "dangerous," "deadly," "interest," "maim," or "flammable."