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Explosives found in Queens College laboratory

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The Fire Department was performing a routine inspection Thursday morning when they discovered five bottles of the chemical, identified as picryl chloride, in a basement laboratory of the Ira Remsen Center, said Ron Cannava, a college spokesman. College officials on the scene said the chemical used to be used to separate amino acids in biological experiments.

Although the chemical, which Cannava said is now a relic of most chemistry laboratories, is not listed as having explosive properties, it was not on the Fire Department's checklist of compounds approved for storage, he said. Consequently, the Hazardous Materials Team was summoned to the scene.

In addition to the Fire Department, the Police Department's bomb squad, the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management and the Occupational Safety and Health Agency were called to the scene.

Just before 1 p.m., members of the Hazardous Materials unit suited up in white protective gear before entering the Gloria and Bernard Salick Center, which is near the Melbourne Avenue entrance. Four college employees stood outside the building, chatting, and dozens of firefighters did the same. An occasional student or two who entered the campus and saw the emergency units glanced up for a moment, then moved along.

The chemicals, which were determined to be stable, were removed from the laboratory by emergency crews. The Fire Department left the scene around 4 p.m., some five hours after they first arrived.

"It was a material we were about to discard, but the Fire Department has regulations and proper procedures," Cannava said. "They were really going by the book."

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