UM lab explains how cyanide vial may have gone missing - | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

UM lab explains how cyanide vial may have gone missing

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There is still no sign of a vial of a highly toxic substance that went missing from a University of Montana laboratory.   

University police are working closely with Missoula police during the investigation.

Bruce Bowler, Director of Biochemistry, explained how labs at the University of Montana keep track of chemicals. 

Potassium cyanide, a white powder substance, is a highly toxic chemical that is in the missing vial.

Staff in the biochemistry lab at the University said that this substance is harmful when ingested or mixed with acids, so chemicals like this are closely watched.

"We're required both locally and by federal agencies to keep a pretty strict inventory of all the chemicals that we have and approximate quantities to keep track of the in-go and out-go of particular chemicals," said Bowler.

Bowler said that this inventory is kept in a database file that is online and available on the University lab server.

He said that there are also material safety data sheets that talk about the toxicity of chemicals.

Bowler said that he has not seen any chemicals removed from his lab, so when he heard a vial went missing from another UM lab he was surprised.

"I would say that is pretty unusual. I mean typically people are in the laboratories at any given time and so the opportunity for someone to come into a laboratory and take a chemical would be rare," said Bowler.

He said that the labs are always locked when people are not using them but he said that people who work in the labs have keys to access them 24/7 and to the entire chemistry building during off-hours.

This means it would be difficult for people without a key to get access to any dangerous chemicals, but for anyone with a key the access is easy.

Most of the chemistry labs at the University of Montana do not have cameras for tracking people who come in and out.

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