I don’t carry picric acid

On 13th June 2018 the national headlines in a small Lincolnshire town, Spalding, was this:

Bomb squad called to Secondary School

Picric acid had been found in an old store cupboard of the school.

It is toxic if inhaled or swallowed. Because of its relative instability, its low temperature combustibility and toxicity, its ability to react with other materials, and its extremely explosive nature, picric acid is one of the most dangerous substances found in the laboratory.

Let us examine that list again.


Unstable because it reacts to other metals

It can combust at room temperature when you wouldn’t expect it to.

It has huge explosive powers

It is highly dangerous probably the most to be found in a lab.

The 19th century French chemist, Jean Baptiste Anote Dumas named this chemical Pitric acid because of its bitter taste. The word picric comes from the Greek work pikros meaning bitter. It is of course the word the Apostle uses:

Get rid of all bitterness. Ephesians 4:31

Since 1886 to World War 1 it was the most widely used military explosive. But its corrosive action on the military shells was a disadvantage.

Paul says get rid of it.

Pikros is a long-standing resentment, a hardening of the heart which refuses to be reconciled. It is to say “I will never speak to that man again.” It is to nurse the anger and to take care of it, thinking over and over on the offending conversation and the injury that it caused you. It is to say I will never love again because of the pain they caused me.

It is easy to see how picric acid is also used as to stem bleeding as a fixative on a finished artwork preserving it from the dust, like a varnish.

It seals the work.

So let me remind us to get rid of it.

Do you want to be known as poisonous?

Do you want to be known as unstable with people tip-toeing around you forever?

Do you want to just blow-up even when there’s nothing of harm going on?

Do you want to create havoc with one your explosions?

Do you want to be known as being dangerous so that people avoid you at all costs?

Probably not. So let’s get rid of it.

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