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Homemade bombs and kids: What do I need to know?

The CDC warns about the potential dangers of homemade chemical bombs. Injuries include burns, skin irritation, and breathing problems.

Homemade bombs and kids: What do I need to know?

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For some kids, it might seem like a funny prank to make and detonate a homemade chemical bomb. Also known as MacGyver bombs, these bottle bombs are easily made by combining commonly available chemicals including toilet bowl, drain, or driveway cleaners in a container. Then the container, such as a soda bottle, is sealed and shaken to cause a chemical reaction that leads to an explosion.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that these bombs are hazardous and especially dangerous if detonated in public areas. In an analysis, the CDC found 134 events from 15 states involving homemade chemical bombs were reported from 2003 to 2011. Among those incidences, 21 resulted in breathing problems, and injuries like burns or skin irritation for 53 people. Two thirds of the injuries were kids, according to the report from the June 21 edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The agency wants to raise awareness about these bombs among first-responders, parents, school staff members and others who work with kids to help reduce injuries associated with these bombs. Most bomb explosions were reported in schools, mail boxes, and residential backyards.

The CDC highlighted three bomb incidences with injuries:

  • A high school janitor found students mixing calcium hypochlorite and other chemicals in a bottle. The janitor seized the bottle, which exploded, releasing chlorine gas. The janitor became ill and vomited, and 12 students and three school workers were treated for respiratory problems. About 1,640 persons were evacuated for 5 hours while a hazardous materials team cleaned and ventilated the school.
  • Two adults were preparing a bomb from hydrochloric acid and aluminum when it prematurely exploded. First responders found one adult unconscious, and both adults sustained physical trauma, respiratory symptoms, and chemical burns. They were treated at a local hospital.
  • An adult picked up a homemade chemical bomb that he found outside his home. Without warning, the bomb exploded in his hand. The man sustained trauma and chemical burns to his hand and chest.
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What to do if you suspect that you’ve found a homemade chemical bomb? Call for help. Only trained bomb squad personnel should approach, handle, or attempt to neutralize these bombs. If you come in contact with an exploded or leaked bomb, exposed clothing should be removed and affected skin should be rinsed with large amounts of water for three to five minutes. More serious injuries like breathing problems or burns require medical attention.


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Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Peter Bidey, D.O. Medical Director of Family Medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Mario Cruz, M.D. St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Jessica Kendorski, PhD, NCSP, BCBA-D Associate Professor in School Psychology/Applied Behavior Analysis at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, R.D. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, M.D., Ph.D Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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