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New software shows safest way to store chemicals, or dispose of them

Mix it or nix it? ChemStor wants to make sure you don't blow yourself up.

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Mixing the wrong swimming pool chemicals together is dangerous, but a new app might prevent accidents. 

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

When chemicals are carelessly stored, mixed together or even disposed of, fires, explosions and injuries can result. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2019, it's estimated that at least 4,500 injuries a year happen not in a lab but at home when people mix the wrong swimming pool chemicals together. 

But a new open-source computer program called ChemStor might prevent these dangerous situations from happening -- in labs, offices, schools and homes -- by warning users whether certain chemicals are unsafe to mix or store together.

Developed by engineers at the University of California at Riverside, the new program uses a database from the US Environmental Protection Agency of 9,800 chemicals that are classified into different reactive groups. The program then sets the chemicals apart using different colors. 

The colorful chemical interaction graph shows users if specific chemicals can safely be mixed or stored together without creating a dangerous reaction. 

Chemicals with the same color can be stored together, while chemicals with different colors cannot.

Currently, ChemStor software is limited to a command-line interface, meaning users must manually enter the type of chemicals and amount of storage space into a computer. 

However, there are plans to make ChemStor more user-friendly, including a smartphone app that can access a user's camera to record information about chemicals and storage areas, according to a statement from UC Riverside.  

The UC Riverside engineers' work appears in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.