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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 13 Issue 1 (2008) pp 3-5

Teaching Chemistry Using The Girls with Yellow Hands

James G. Goll*, Jenifer L. Ley, and Tarah M. Nytes

Natural Science Department, Edgewood College,Madison, WI 53711,
Received March 9, 2007. Accepted May 31, 2007.

Published online: 1 February 2008

Abstract. Popular media can be used in the classroom to engage students while teaching chemical principles. The PBS series The Great War and Shaping of the 20th Century explores problems with handling hazardous materials without proper precautions. An episode of this series, The Girls with Yellow Hands, focuses on female munitions workers in Britain during World War I. The obvious danger when working with munitions is the constant threat of explosion; however, a more insidious problem resulted from long term exposure to trinitrotoluene, commonly known as TNT. TNT poisoning causes the skin to become yellow and hair to become discolored. Other indications of TNT poisoning include headache and cold-like symptoms. This paper explores the reasons for these effects and discusses how this event in history can be used to facilitate discussions about chemistry and chemical safety in the classroom.

Key Words: In the Classroom; general chemistry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

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Issue date: February 1, 2008

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