WWWTP? – HF Stupidity on House, M.D.

February 14th, 2012

A concerned labmate brought my attention to a chemical abomination on last week’s episode of the increasingly unpopular television show House, M.D.

Thanks to a very special friend of mine, we can all enjoy video footage of what Hollywood writers believe constitutes a realistic demonstration for a high school chemistry class:


Marvelous, isn’t it? Notice how the teacher isn’t wearing a single piece of personal protective equipment—no gloves, no goggles, no lab coat—whilst working in front of a poster that reads “LAB SAFETY RULES”.

Who knows what this demonstration was supposed to be, but the last time I checked, HF wasn’t combustible. In fact, its NFPA 704 flammability rating is zero. Oh well, I doubt the flame coming out of the Bunsen burner is real anyway, seeing as how the dude just picked up the metal with his bare hands. The limp gas line and the fact that the blue flame doesn’t deflect upward when it is tilted are also nice pieces of laziness on the part of the production staff.

If you plan to replicate this experiment at home, I suggest that you work with hydrofluoric acid in plastic containers instead of glass ones. HF is a great etchant for glass and many other materials that contain silicon. Furthermore, if you have an accident and get HF on your skin or in your lungs, you are going to be in a world of hurt. That stuff is nasty and goes right for the calcium in your body. In the event of an accident, you should apply calcium gluconate gel to the affected areas of your skin and seek medical attention immediately. Preferably, not from Dr. Gregory House.

8 Responses to “WWWTP? – HF Stupidity on House, M.D.”

  1. Curious Wavefunction Says:

    Nothing educates the kids like a picture:


  2. Slurpy Says:

    For those that didn’t know, House got cancelled last week. So I’d say it’s unpopularity can’t really increase much more.

  3. SpeedyGonzales Says:

    I used some hydrofluoric acid-pyridine complex last night. About 0.1 mL. For that I used a plastic eyedropper, fumehood sash all the way down, goggles, gloves, a lab coat, and had a tube of calcium glucaconate by my side. Now thanks to House, I know that was all overkill.

  4. SpeedyGonzales Says:

    @Curious Wavefunction, if I am ever a PI, I have the notion that I am going to have a binder of such images culled from the medical literature, and the first punishment for any students’ non-compliance with safety requirements will be having to look at such images.

  5. CR Says:

    I think the best use of HF on TV was in Breaking Bad. The chemistry teacher tells the kid to get plastic tubs in order to dissolve a body with HF. The kid decides to do in the bathtub. As they are talking on the first floor, all of a sudden the entire bathtub contents come crashing through the ceiling.

    Also, I’m shocked that this would be shown on House, M.D. The story lines are generally so realistic…

  6. Check your hydrogen fluoride cylinders | The Safety Zone Says:

    […] prime time television last week courtesy of the series House. ChemBark critiques the episode at HF Stupidity on House, M.D. and has a video showing the relevant parts of the show, if you don’t want to watch the whole […]

  7. Tom Phillips Says:

    I’ve never watched House, but you’d think that they’d at least get one researcher to fact check that storyline. They must do it for all the medical stuff, why not the chemistry?

    @Curious Wavefunction: Oh my, that HF burn is horrendous. Poor guy.

  8. Rob Reed Says:

    I keep a 100g bottle of Calcium Gluconate in the lab.
    Use it like baby powder on wet skin-use lots.
    I never did like the creams….plus I can take it with me
    to the hospital just in case the stock of medicinal calcium gluconate is
    on back order !

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