Amazon as a chemical supplier

Once upon a time I lived in North America and was always amazed at the range of (what I considered to be lab only) chemicals on sale in drug stores (pharmacies) and home depot (DIY store). Cans of toluene and acetone would keep place along side the more familiar meths, and hydrogen peroxide would nestle with the cotton wool. And it didn’t seem quite right because in the UK, many of those substances were not on obvious display. I couldn’t comment on whether they were for sale having never tried to buy them.

Flash forward to last week when I was looking for some super absorbant polymer. Best supplier: Amazon. And the range of chemical stuff on sale through the Amazon UK site gives me pause really. Who knew that the general public needed stuff like potassium iodide (laboratory grade) or that oxalic acid was a useful rust remover. Or that sulfuric and hydrochloric acids worked along side potassium permanganate and potassium chlorate. I did establish that it would be quite possible to buy a nice selection of stuff for home made fireworks.

Sadly there were few product reviews for me to determine the purpose to which these purchases were being put.

More intriguing was the range of lab ware type products, and I get some of this is for home science and schools. Not so sure about the test tubes for shot glasses though. More curious was that much of the plastic labware is cheaper through Amazon than through one of our approved suppliers.  Great for science outreach budgets that don’t go through ‘official channels’ (i.e. cheque deposited into bank account), a little curious in the context of value for money for tax payer funded science.

So perhaps the world has now reached a stage where Amazon is all you need.