December 20, 2011

Critical Exposure

On her first day at Roosevelt Senior H.S., Sabrina was shocked to find broken windows, leaky ceilings, and moldy class equipment. In October, Sabrina and her classmates began working with Critical Exposure to document the school's conditions and highlight the differences between Roosevelt and the renovations at many other D.C. public schools. She and her peers are now organizing students to hold city officials accountable for promises they made to begin modernizing the building this year... More: LINK

December 12, 2011 the rush to go green, safety is often overlooked...

Grad Helps Make Green Buildings Safe for Workers: Researcher Develops Tool to Integrate Safety Into Design

Mohamed Omar, a 2011Work Environment graduate, conducted research on the safety of green building features.Mohamed Omar, a 2011Work Environment graduate, conducted research on the safety of green building features.
12/09/2011 By Karen Angelo
Green buildings are intended to do good – conserve energy, protect the environment and improve the health of occupants. But some green systems are putting people who install and maintain them in harms way, says a research study conducted by Work Environment graduate Mohamed Omar. 

“We found that many of the green buildings that house these systems were not designed with workers in mind,” says Omar, a Lowell resident who works as an environmental management engineer at Harvard University’s Office of Environmental Health, Safety and Emergency Management. “Unfortunately, in the rush to go green, safety is often overlooked.”

Working with his adviser Prof. Margaret Quinn, Omar found an increased risk of occupational safety and health hazards for five common green building features –  geothermal wells, green roofs, rainwater harvesting systems, energy recovery wheels and natural light percolating systems.

November 15, 2011

The importance of visualizing the danger...

Natural Gas Leaks Fuel Global Warming, Not Homes  Bostonia, Fall 2011. BU researcher, Nathan Phillips, maps gas leaks on city streets

November 03, 2011

Upcoming Webinar! 
The Virtual School Walkthrough: Identifying and Solving Common IAQ Problems
Friday, December 9, 2011, 1–2:30 p.m. EST.

Do you know what to look for when observing the condition of your school buildings?

Join IAQ experts Richard Prill from Washington State University and David Blake from the Northwest Clean Air Agency on a virtual school walkthrough, providing you with a comprehensive and effective process for identifying, diagnosing and solving common IAQ issues.

Attend this webinar to:
  • Gain insight on how to identify potential IAQ issues before they become major problems for your school community.
  • Learn when and how to take, interpret and use IAQ-related measurements to determine the condition of your school buildings. 
  • Discover tools and resources your school can use, including checklists within the IAQ Tools for Schools Action Kit, to conduct a thorough and effective walkthrough investigation.
  • Learn the importance of prioritizing IAQ issues and the power of effective communication when responding to reports and concerns.
  • Hear about Dave and Rich’s follow up webinar on IAQ measurements and testing, which will be held in January 2012.
Listen to a clip of Dave and Rich’s webinar presentation to hear how conducting a walkthrough in a school should be as routine as getting a physical at a doctor’s office. Access the clip here:

October 28, 2011

CSB Again Calls for Increased Safeguards at Oil and Gas Sites.  The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently distributed educational materials concerning oil site hazards that threaten the lives of teenagers to more than 150 ississippi school superintendents. CSB is calling on schools across the state to incorporate the video and lessons into school curricula. 

The project’s aim is to save the lives of teenagers in rural areas who often socialize at oil and gas production and storage sites and who are seemingly unaware of the explosion hazards. The products include the CSB’s safety video, "No Place to Hang Out: The Danger of Oil Sites," and a lesson plan to be incorporated into school curricula across the state. 

The “No Place to Hang Out” video was released in April and tells the story of the tragic deaths of 18-year-old Wade White and 16-year-old Devon Byrd. The two boys were killed Oct. 31, 2009, when an oil tank located in a clearing in the woods near one of the boys’ homes in Carnes, Miss., exploded.

Chemical board calls for safer oil, natural gas storage tanks after explosions ...Washington Post  Explosions from oil and natural gas tanks tucked away in isolated areas killed 44 people in the last three decades, federal regulators said Thursday as they called on companies and officials to make the storage sites safer. Thousands of tanks are in ...

Chemical Safety Board: Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Sites Are ...EHS Today  On Oct. 31, 2009, two teenagers, aged 16 and 18, were killed when a storage tank containing natural gas condensate exploded at a rural gas production site in Carnes, Miss. Six months later a group of youths were exploring a similar tank site in ...

October 25, 2011

Nominate a Healthy Schools Hero 2012

The Cenotaph
For Immediate Release
Attn:  Science educators, STEM advocates, professionals in health and safety, lab safety, community security, IAQ, IPM, emergency and risk management, asthma educators, first responders, school administrators, advocates, parents…
Do you know someone whose sense of responsibility, inspirational leadership, and exemplary persistence and courage protects children from hazards and unhealthy school or community conditions?

March 18, 2012 will be the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Texas School Explosion, the worst school disaster in U.S. history -- a gas explosion in the small East Texas town of New London that killed 319 people, mostly students, just minutes before the end of the school day.  (What was the 1937 Texas School Explosion?)

By nominating a Hero you can help make March 18 an annual day that brings the Lessons of the 1937 Texas School Explosion to our nation's schools and celebrates the leadership that can save lives. See: "Set aside a special day each year as a memorial..."

Send your hero's name, contact information, and your hero's story by February 15, 2012 to
The Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero Award was created as an annual opportunity to tell the story of New London Texas' preventable tragedy, to promote inspirational examples of leadership and partnerships, and to start conversations to identify and eliminate chemical hazards and unhealthy conditions that put children at risk today.

Break the Silence.   

The Heroes Award is part of an ongoing campaign to bring "safety" from the margins to the core of school curriculum and community culture.  

The goal is to strengthen parent involvement and community partnerships to establish the 21st century standards and safeguards that can protect children from deadly explosions, fires, chemical spills and toxic exposures. 
This cenotaph, erected in 1939 is the memorial to victims of the explosion. The sculptural block of Texas granite depicts twelve life-size figures, representing children coming to school, bringing gifts and handing in homework to two teachers. Around the inside of the base are the individual names of those who died.  The Egyptians defined a cenotaph as a symbolic tomb, honoring the dead but not containing the body. It is a sepulchral monument erected to commemorate a person or persons buried elsewhere. 

October 20, 2011

Clarkston remembers 22 dead from 1961 gas explosion
BBC News 

The explosion caused devastation and left 22 people dead and dozens injured.
Clarkston gas explosion 
Events are being held this weekend to mark the 40th anniversary of the Clarkston gas explosion which killed 22 people and left more than 100 injured.

The blast flattened a row of shops in the town and impacted on a passing bus just before 15:00 on 21 October 1971.

It was described as the worst peace-time explosion in Scotland. An inquiry later found no-one was to blame.

A flower laying ceremony will take place next to Clarkston Hall at 15:00 on Friday.

Family grief

This will be followed by a special service at Greenbank Church at 14:00 on Sunday.

East Renfrewshire Provost Alex Mackie said: "The Clarkston explosion took many lives from our community but it touched many more.

"The families and children who were left behind in their grief, the many people injured and the many more people who knew someone affected by it.

"We are joining with the local churches and community to remember the events of 40 years ago.

"It is a chance for all of us to pay our respects to those who lost their lives and those who lost loved ones."
CSB Releases New Video on Laboratory Safety at Academic Institutions October 20, 2011 "Experimenting with Danger"
 Focuses on CSB Case Study on Texas Tech University Accident; Laboratory Deaths at UCLA and Dartmouth

October 19, 2011

Report finds fault with college labs over poor safety record by Dan Vergano and Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

..."The report lays out a challenge to the academic community, " says Neal Langerman of Advanced Chemical Safety Inc. in San Diego. "We really need a 'safety culture' in university labs."

... Lab accidents at schools and colleges happen 10 to 50 times more frequently than in the chemical industry, according to Jim Kaufman of the Laboratory Safety Institute.
... "Safety is just as important as scholarship," says Taylor Eighmy, Texas Tech research vice president. The university now makes investigators report all safety accidents.

October 13, 2011

Dallas schools consider update of emergency plan By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer),Published: October 13, 2011

Evacuation by bus to another site may not be practical if it's a large gas fire, like San Bruno or Edison NJ. The thermal flux (radiant heat) could be enough to panic children, even if there's been evacuation drills before. It sounds like very poor siting of the schools or pipelines was done here.....


...... Jacobs said she felt the school board had dropped the ball on the subject, and was glad she could make a valid point which its members understood.

"They just want to ignore the thing over there, and everybody's going to hold their breath for the next 50 years and hope there's not a problem," she said.

October 06, 2011

Schools Learn Some Hard Lessons   
Healthy School News Fall 2011 Issue (PDF) (8 pp. 1.4MB)

Over the past few months, EPA has found a number of cases of asbestos contamination in schools in Region 10. In one instance, school personnel removed ceiling tiles as part of a school project and inadvertently disturbed asbestos-containing dust. In another case, contractors hired by the school district removed asbestos floor tile without first identifying it as asbestos-containing material. EPA has also learned of volunteers who are being asked to sand and paint portions of their schools without proper safety precautions and training.

Schools need to carefully consider repair and maintenance projects for school buildings to avoid potentially harmful exposures. Some approaches schools should use include:

1. Know The Age of Your Buildings– Both lead and asbestos were used extensively in building products sold prior to 1978.

2. Get Professional Help if Pre-1978 – If you allow any untrained person to disturb pre-1978 building materials, there is a good chance you are exposing that person to both asbestos and lead and are doing something illegal.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions about Building Materials – There is no way for you to determine whether there is lead or asbestos in a building product by visual inspection. Specialized equipment and trained personnel are required.

To learn more about the EPA’s lead & asbestos programs, go to or Or contact Regional Lead Coordinator, Barbara Ross at or Regional Asbestos Coordinator, Maria Tartaglia at

Do you want a free test of your school’s artificial turf for lead? Contact Matt at or (510) 655-3900, ext. 318.
October is Children’s Health Month  
Healthy School News Fall 2011 Issue (PDF) (8 pp. 1.4MB)

EPA is recognizing that school environments are very important for children, and is calling attention to the tools and resources available for communities to improve school environments, address indoor air quality, and reduce exposures to chemicals and pesticides, ultimately making their schools healthier and safer places for children.

All of EPA’s tools and resources can be accessed through EPA’s Schools Web Portal,

-- Highly recommend: EPA newsletters that offer tips and information to keep schools in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska environmentally healthy and pollution-free.

Healthy School News Fall 2011 Issue (PDF) (8 pp. 1.4MB)
Healthy School News May 2011 Issue (PDF) (7 pp. 817K)
Healthy School News Winter 2011 Issue (PDF) (5 pp. 1MB)
Healthy School News Fall 2010 Issue (PDF) (4 pp. 272K)
Healthy School News May 2010 Issue (PDF) (3 pp. 325K)
Healthy School News Feb 2010 Issue (PDF) (2 pp. 338K)
Effective Policies to Eliminate Chemical Releases and Exposures in Schools 
 Healthy School News Fall 2011 Issue (PDF) (8 pp. 1.4MB)
To promote a national framework for the prevention of chemical incidents in schools, the ATSDR National Toxic Substance Incidents Program (NTSIP) has teamed up with Interstate Chemical Threats Workgroup (ICTW) to bring you this exciting fall webinar series. 

During the sessions we’ll explore policies and prevention efforts for three chemicals/chemical categories that lead the NTSIP incident list: elemental mercury, cleaning products, and pesticides. 

At the conclusion of the webinar series, the summary notes will guide the development of a white paper entitled, Best Practices and Policies for Eliminating Chemical Releases and Exposures in Schools. 

This paper will be distributed nationally and will serve as a basis of ATSDR’s outreach to those who can effect change. If you are not an ICTW member, but would like to attend please contact Lori Copan at

Save the dates:   All sessions will begin at 12:30pm EST/9:30am PST and run for 75 minutes.

October 13th
  Mercury exposures and effective policies

November 10th
  Green cleaning policies to eliminate exposures

December 15th  Pesticide exposures and effective policies

January 12th  Discussion on white paper development: “Best Practices and Policies for Eliminating Chemical Releases and Exposures in Schools”.

October 05, 2011

New:  Landowner's Guide to Pipelines

The Pipeline Safety Trust frequently hears from landowners who live near pipelines with questions about pipeline safety, the government processes for routing pipelines, easements and eminent domain, right of way maintenance and use limitations, property values and insurance, and many other topics related to living near a pipeline.  Last year we received a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration to produce a guide for landowners to provide answers to many of these questions. 

We are happy to announce the release of the Landowner's Guide to Pipelines, developed following input from landowners and those about to become pipeline neighbors who advised us what kinds of information landowners living with pipelines need to have. If you would like a printed copy (or more), please let us know. (Please phone or send an email with your mailing address to - don't post it on the list). We'll be happy to mail them to you. For those of you who just can't wait for a copy in the mail, the Guide is also available as a pdf on our website at

Thanks for your continued support.

The Pipeline Safety Trust


New photos from the New London school disaster  Houston Chronicle
After the tragic events of that day, the Texas Legislature passed a law ... Search-and-recovery scene following New London school explosion, March 1937...

October 03, 2011

Large fire at chemical plant south of Dallas... including chemicals used to stimulate oil and gas wells and hyrdraulic fracturing. VIDEO:

October 02, 2011

October is Children's Health Month

Develop a "Safety Bill of Rights" for your school.  For example:
  • Parents, educators, and health professionals owe it to children to teach safety and teach safely.
  • Every child has a right to an environmentally safe and healthy home and school.
  • Schools should be role models for environmental safety and environmentally responsible behavior.
  • Everyone has a right to know about unsafe and unhealthy school conditions and to be involved in efforts to create and maintain safe conditions.

Neighbors uneasy as Kansas gas fields go uninspected, Wichita Eagle

September 29, 2011

Nathan Phillips is a meter-reader for the 21st century.

The College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of geography and environment recently piled into a Nissan Murano with collaborators Bob Ackley and Eric Crosson and rambled through the streets of greater Boston to hunt for natural gas leaks. With the help of a strange-looking vacuum device attached to the car just below the rear bumper, the three have found geysers of gas gushing invisibly from underground pipes corroded by age. The leaks, Phillips says, contribute to global warming, could create explosions in some extreme cases, have killed or damaged up to 10,000 trees in Massachusetts (a disputed matter under litigation), and shaft rate-paying gas customers who must pick up the tab for wasted gas.

Much more 

September 26, 2011

Companies such as Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which owns the line that caused the Cupertino blast, don't have to routinely report what they know about failure rates of particular brands of plastic pipes, even to the federal and state agencies that regulate pipeline operators. The federal government, bowing to industry resistance, has never required it.

Officials with the California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees PG&E, say the utility does account for plastic pipe leaks in quarterly reports, but does not indicate the maker of the pipes involved. PG&E provides that and other key information about plastic pipe failures on a voluntary, anonymous basis to an industry-maintained confidential database.

Timothy Alan Simon, one of the five PUC members appointed by the governor, said that should change.

"These are gas lines coming to your home," Simon said. "Every resident should have a certain level of assurance that we are not hiding information that they need to know to determine safety."

Much More... 


Plastic natural gas pipe failure data kept secret  Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, September 26, 2011

Read article:

... Richard Kuprewicz, a consultant from Redmond, Wash., who advises federal regulators on pipeline safety, said keeping data hidden blinds regulators.

The current system, he said, creates "the illusion of safety, in that it gives people the impression that someone is keeping real data that means something. It may or may not - most likely not."

September 25, 2011

New standards set for industrial pipe cleaning in wake of deadly 2010 Conn ...

Update 9 24 2011  New standards set for industrial pipe cleaning in wake of deadly 2010 Conn ...  The Republic  AP MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — Federal officials are coming to Connecticut to unveil a new safety standard on how industrial gas-piping systems should be cleaned, a measure developed after the deadly 2010 Kleen Energy plant explosion. ...

August 5, 2010 $16.6 Million in Fines After Fatal Blast at a Connecticut Plant by RUSS BUETTNER

September 23, 2011

Lost and Unaccounted Natural Gas: Energy, Economics, and Environment Workshop:
The purpose of this workshop is to explore and create awareness around “the unknown” – the extent – the cause – the locations – the how – of these methane gas leaks; to explore rural- urban environmental and economic interdependencies surrounding the natural gas resource and industry; and develop a consensus on a research strategy to address these findings. Leaders from government, research, citizens, utilities and private sector will gather to share information and brainstorm next steps.

Thousands of gas leaks in Boston area Boston Globe (August 17, 2011)

Extensive Methane Leaks Discovered Under Streets of Boston ScienceDaily (May 13, 2011)

September 16, 2011

Effective Policies to Eliminate Chemical Releases and Exposures in Schools. Webinar Series.

To promote a national framework for the prevention of chemical incidents in schools, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) National Toxic Substance Incidents Program (NTSIP) has teamed up with Interstate Chemical Threats Workgroup (ICTW) to bring an exciting webinar series. 

During the sessions we'll explore policies and prevention efforts for three chemicals/chemical categories that lead the NTSIP incident list: elemental mercury, cleaning products, and pesticides. 

At the conclusion of the webinar series, the summary notes will guide the development of a white paper entitled, Best Practices and Policies for Eliminating Chemical Releases and Exposures in Schools. 

  • "Mercury Exposure and Effective Policies" on October 13, 
  • "Green Cleaning Policies to Eliminate Exposures," on November 10, 
  • "Pesticide Exposures and Effective Policies" on December 15, 
  • "Best Practices and Policies for Eliminating Chemical Releases and Exposures in Schools" on January 12, 2012. 

All webinars start at 9:30 a.m. PST. 

"The U.S. Review of Books," John E. Roper Review of An American Holocaust: The Story of Lataine's Ring by Kerry L. Barger,
"I remember being thrown up in the air like a toy... I keep turning and spinning. Then darkness." 

The attack on the World Trade Center in New York claimed almost 3,000 lives and changed America forever. A little-remembered explosion of a school in the 1930s resulted in just over 300 deaths, yet it, too, had a tremendous impact on society. Barger revives the story of one of the nation's most poignant tragedies in his highly-moving tale.

The school in New London was considered one of the most modern facilities in the state for the time period, and the residents of the small East Texas town were extremely proud of it. Like in many of the small towns near the oil fields, school officials had decided to tap into the natural gas lines to cut heating costs at the facility. What they never realized was just how dangerous that practice could be. On March 18, 1937, a spark in the wood shop ignited the cloud of invisible and odorless gas that had slowly permeated the school. The resulting explosion killed children and teachers alike, littering the area with body parts and completely devastating a community. The catastrophe led Texas to mandate the inclusion of an additive to natural gas that would enable people to smell it. The nation and then much of the world soon followed suit. 

Barger's book follows the lives of several families affected by the tragedy, including his own. By giving the reader glimpses into the hopes and dreams of individuals like his cousin, Lataine, he builds a literary memorial to those who lost so much to make others safe in the future. The book is not without its flaws, but it stands as a much-needed reminder of an event that should never be forgotten.

-- Kerry Barger has donated free hardback and paperback copies of An American Holocaust: The Story of Lataine's Ring to the New London Museum, where it is now available for their visitors.

The US Review of Books

"Mr. Barger's Kindle books are always free to Amazon Prime members and will be offered free of charge to everyone on Feb. 20th at . You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle e-books on your computer, iPod, or Smart Phone. Mr. Barger will be happy to send you a free download of any of his books for the asking. Simply contact him through the link provided in his Author's Website."

September 14, 2011

12 Principles of Green Chemistry

Beyond Benign: Green Chemistry Education 

Green Chemistry is the science of creating safe, energy efficient and non-toxic products and processes and offers a concrete path towards solving the environmental problems our society faces today.

September 08, 2011

A pervasive lack of proactive measures

"Organizational accidents typically have multiple contributing causes, involve people at numerous levels within the organization, and are characterized by a pervasive lack of proactive measures to ensure adoption and compliance with a safety culture. They are generally catastrophic in nature and require complex organizational changes. All these aspects are present in this accident."
 -- September 3, 2011 San Bruno Pipeline Blast: NTSB lays out another system failure

A summary of facts and technical findings presented by Ravi Chattre, NTSB engineer and chief investigator.


September 03, 2011

not as safe as it should be

Adrian Martin was aware that his work at Membrane Technology and Research in Menlo Park was "not as safe as it should be," his wife recalled

Scientist killed in explosion at Menlo Park R&D firm
San Jose Mercury News
The 56-year-old scientist's observation appeared to ring true Friday afternoon when a gas-fueled explosion ripped through a laboratory at the company's Willow Road headquarters, killing him and injuring a colleague. "He's not here right now because a ...

September 02, 2011

An American Holocaust: The Story of Lataine's Ring by Kerry L. Barger

A new book -- in anticipation of the 75th anniversary of the March 18 1937 Texas School Explosion.  

Author's Website 

"Mr. Barger's Kindle books are always free to Amazon Prime members and will be offered free of charge to everyone on Feb. 20th at . You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle e-books on your computer, iPod, or Smart Phone. Mr. Barger will be happy to send you a free download of any of his books for the asking. Simply contact him through the link provided in his Author's Website."

Got gas?

August 26, 2011

2011 NSC Congress & Expo

The National Safety Council (NSC) Congress & Expo is the world's largest annual safety event serving the environmental, health and safety professions. It provides an opportunity for safety professionals of all experience levels to share ideas, trends and best practices to propel their organization forward. The 2011 NSC Congress will be held on October 30- November 4, 2011 and the Expo will be held on October 31- November 2, 2011 in Philadelphia, PA.  
Conference websiteExit NIEHS Website

2012 NSC Texas Safety Conference & Expo 

The National Safety Council Texas Safety Conference and Expo (NSC TSCE) provides an opportunity to share the latest developments in safety issues, trends and best practices. The 2012 Conference will be held from March 18-20, 2012 in Galveston, TX.  

Conference website Exit NIEHS Website


Toshiba America Foundation: Grants for Science and Math Education
Toshiba America Foundation Grants aim to contribute to the quality of science and mathematics education in U.S. communities by investing in projects designed by classroom teachers to improve science and mathematics education. Maximum award: $1,000. Eligibility: teachers K-12. Deadline: October 1, 2011.

August 25, 2011


...breaking through a natural gas line can result in an explosion that could prove fatal.

...If homeowners are going to dig a hole or ditch more than a foot deep anywhere on their property, they must call 8-1-1 a full two days ahead of time. Utility crews will then arrive at the site and mark, through various colored spray paint lines, the location of underground utilities.
It's a shared responsibility – from homeowners and contractors to excavators and utility providers – to ensure that services are not disrupted and people are safe. That's why it's essential that you call before you dig. 

--  For safety of all, everyone should heed `call before you dig' August 25, 2011

August 21, 2011

Back to School: Check up on Science Lab Safety

Linda Trischitta, Sun Sentinel
August 12, 2011

Sun Sentinel/Linda Trischitta
Traffic flow on South Federal Highway was briefly blocked in both directions Friday morning between Davie Boulevard and Southeast Seventh Street while Fort Lauderdale's bomb squad, HazMat team, fire rescue and police worked to dispose of potentially volatile chemicals found at a private school.

The roadblock was removed at 11:30 a.m.

Administrators at Bethany Christian School, 615 SE Ninth St., were preparing for the coming school year when a teacher discovered a quantity of ammonium nitrate from a science lab and said it appeared to be crystallized.

"It being crystallized would make it dangerous and means it was contaminated with another chemical that could make it explosive," Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue spokesman Matt Little said. "It could have a blast radius of 150 feet."    

July 29, 2011

NSTA: Distinguished Fellow Award
The National Science Teachers Association Distinguished Fellow Award recognizes NSTA members who have made extraordinary contributions to science education through personal commitment to education, specifically science teaching or science; educational endeavors and original work that position recipients as exemplary leaders in their field; or significant contributions to the profession that reflect dedication to the NSTA as well the entire educational community. Maximum award: recognition at the NSTA Awards Banquet in conjunction with the NSTA National Conference. Eligibility: longstanding (at least 10 years) NSTA members. Deadline: November 30, 2010.

July 14, 2011

“How deep does the culture go where nobody says anything, even when they know they should?’’ 
...Mullan and Patrick both took issue with comments by Helmut Ernst, a high-level engineer for the department who maintained that engineers have been trained not to write safety problems down, because written records can be used in lawsuits. Any such mindset is totally unacceptable - particularly in light of Mullan’s stated commitment to transparency. But it’s fair to assume that Ernst, who was later placed on unpaid leave, was accurately describing how many in the department feel. As a consultant asked in an internal report, “How deep does the culture go where nobody says anything, even when they know they should?’’

July 12, 2011

Methane Gas Leaks Common Across Massachusetts  
Boston's aging pipes are leaking explosive methane gas and it may be occurring in a neighborhood near you.

July 09, 2011

'Model workplaces' not always so safe Workers at plants billed as the nation’s safest - and thus exempt from some inspections - are dying in preventable accidents: explosions, chemical releases, crane accidents and machinery-related crushing and asphyxiation.
EG: Is a culture of silence reinforced when government authorities and employers cooperate to paint an overly rosy picture of conditions and attitudes that, in reality, put people at risk? 

July 08, 2011

Where do people learn to ignore safety?

CSB: DuPont needs to 're-examine' safety practices. DuPont Co. rejected affordable plant and equipment upgrades, ignored near-miss incidents and violated the chemical giant's own widely touted safety guidelines in failing to prevent three January 2010 accidents that left one Belle plant worker dead, according to a report issued Thursday. Charleston Gazette, West Virginia.

Phosgene leak could have crossed river, CSB says. Dangerous levels of the poisonous chemical phosgene may have escaped the DuPont Co. Belle plant and drifted across the Kanawha River as part of a January 2010 leak that killed a DuPont worker, federal investigators revealed Thursday. Charleston Gazette, West Virginia.

June 30, 2011

Mine disaster probe finds intimidation, false papers. Choosing safety over production was a firing offense at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch coal mine, according to a federal investigation of last year's deadly explosion there. All Things Considered, NPR.

June 26, 2011

Boston College Lab Explosion, HazMat 3 ...Student alone in the lab

Chemical blast at Boston College lab hurts student
July 1 Update, Associated Press BOSTON—A Boston College doctoral student suffered minor injuries at a lab Saturday when a chemical used in making mustard gas and methamphetamine exploded in her hand, a school spokesman said. 
The student, who was not identified, suffered cuts on her face after the small blast at the Merkert Chemistry Center in Boston, said school spokesman Jack Dunn. She then drove herself home.

Other students who later spotted evidence of an explosion called Boston police, Dunn said. Fire officials and hazmat crew evacuated the building.

The student told emergency workers that she was using a chemical called thionyl chloride alone in the lab. Thionyl chloride can be used to make mustard gas and nerve toxins, but it is also used in the manufacturing of batteries and herbicides, among other things. The fire department didn't know what kind of experiment she was conducting.

Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said the student was decontaminated and transported to St. Elizabeth Hospital. She also suffered minor burns on one of her hands, he said.

MacDonald said the situation was complicated when the student left the building and went home. "We then had to decontaminate her car and her apartment," he said.
The Boston College building reopened Saturday afternoon.
Newton Patch, June 25 update.
An explosion in a basement chemistry lab at Boston College injured one student and caused authorities to evacuate the building on Saturday morning.

The student, who was initially unaccounted for, was found off campus. Emergency decontamination teams are helping her and interviewing her. It could not immediately be confirmed the nature of the experiment she was doing at the time of the explosion.

Firefighters have cleared the scene of the explosion, 2995 Beacon St. There was no fire along with the explosion, according to Steve MacDonald of the Boston Fire Deparment.

Newton Patch, June 25.
An explosion in a lab at Boston College has caused the evacuation of the building.The situation has been declared a Level 3 Hazardous Materials incident. Initially, one student was unaccounted for, but she has been found. There was no fire as a result of the explosion.The incident took place in the basement of 2995 Beacon St.

June 17, 2011

Bosses Imperil Cleanup at Hanford, Agency Says

A recent investigation conducted by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) into safety issues related to the construction of a nuclear waste treatment plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation revealed that government managers and contractors overseeing the project have actively prevented workers from raising serious concerns about safety. The investigating board found that Hanford's safety culture is so poor that it has "a substantial probability of jeopardizing" construction and safe operation of the one-of-a-kind plant.
The Seattle Times Exit NIEHS Website Craig Welch

May 20, 2011

...intimidated workers who raised safety issues...

Massey Energy Co. ignored well-established safety practices, intimidated workers who raised safety issues and used its clout to exert political influence and resist regulation. From the report: “Such total and catastrophic systemic failures can only be explained in the context of a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable…It is only in the context of a culture bent on production at the expense of safety that these obvious deviations from decades of known safety practices make sense.”
Persistent black lung, old scourge of coal, found in autopsies of most Massey miners. Autopsies of the 29 men killed in last year’s explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia revealed a surprising fact: Most had coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, better known as black lung , a deadly disease that U.S. authorities have been vowing to eradicate for more than 40 years. Center for Public Integrity

Report Faults Massey in Miners' Deaths

A 13-month independent investigation into the coal-mine explosion that killed 29 Massey Energy Co. workers last year concluded that the accident could have been prevented and was primarily the result of the company's failed safety systems, which federal and state regulators failed to correct. The 120-page report by J. Davitt McAteer, the top mine regulator during the Clinton administration, is the first comprehensive account of the worst U.S. coalmining disaster in 40 years, which occurred at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., on April 5, 2010.
The Wall Street Journal  [Author Kris Maher]

May 18, 2011

New Online Green Chemistry Professional Development for High School Educators

Beyond Benign is proud to announce our first online professional development course. This course is designed for the high school chemistry and general science teachers who see sustainability as a core understanding for all students. By signing up for this 8 week course (45 contact hours) teachers will receive cutting edge science content and tools to learn at your own pace. The materials are designed for high-tech, low-tech and no-tech implementation so that teachers with varying resources have a clear avenue for implementation. Sign-up begins today and the deadline for registration is June 8th.
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March 18, 2011

2011 Healthy Schools Hero Dr. Dwight Peavey

Every year, to mark the anniversary of the March 18, 1937 Texas School Explosion, I salute a Healthy Schools Hero whose extraordinary responsibility and inspirational leadership is dedicated to eliminating explosives and other chemical hazards and unhealthy conditions in schools.  

The March 18 Healthy Schools Hero Award is an annual call to tell the story of the worst school disaster in American history as a case study and cautionary tale.  By example, each Hero is an inspiration to break the silence about school hazards and bring the Lessons of the 1937 Texas School Explosion to today’s schools.  

The 1937 story needs telling because the decision-making and false economies that led to the 1937 explosion are too common in schools today.  We have widespread school design, building and operations problems, warnings are unheeded, no one takes responsible for safety, and explosives and other hazardous materials and unhealthy conditions in labs, classrooms, closets and storerooms are routinely ignored.  

The 1937 explosion resulted in a law that required adding a warning odor to natural gas thus saving millions of lives all over the world.  However, other important recommendations of the 1937 Court of Inquiry have yet to be used so that schools are teaching safely and teaching safety to students in 21st century schools.    

Today is the 74th anniversary ... Survivors Remember

Voices of New London narrated slideshow:

“...I was in the PTA program in the gym,” West said. “I played the triangle in the Little Rhythm Band. We had just finished when the teacher told us we could get on the buses at the big school gym.
“I didn’t know which was my bus, so I had just walked back and got in line when (the building) exploded.”

March 17, 2011

Lax oversight of school construction raises doubts about earthquake safety. State regulators have routinely failed to enforce California’s landmark earthquake safety law for public schools, allowing children and teachers to occupy buildings with structural flaws and potential safety hazards reported during construction. California Watch

Unfinished Legacy:
The story of the 1937 Texas School Explosion needs to be part of our national legacy because the decision-making that led to the 1937 explosion is the same type of decision-making in schools today.  Short cuts and false economies put children at risk...

The story can inspire us to break the silence about school hazards and to prioritize the values and technical skills we need to live safely with 21st century chemicals and technology. 

March 14, 2011

2011 Hero Dr. Dwight Peavey Testimonies

Peter Swanson, Former Teacher and Department Chair at Quincy High School
Robert Czerwinski, Acting Fire Chief in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Peter Swanson, Former Teacher and Department Chair at Quincy High School writes:

I took over as Department Chair of Science at Quincy High School five years ago.  I heard Dwight speak to a group of department heads south of Boston.  When he finished I raced to speak with him because we had a mess on our hands.  The Department had collected chemicals and supplies for I would guess 50 years or more and we had no money for disposal.  He told me that he would visit the school, make an assessment, talk to the principal and then give me an action time line. 

During the summer he and his crew cleaned up our science facilities and then went to the other High School and the middle schools to clean up there.  Dwight and I developed a wonderful professional relationship.  I advocate for his program when attending conferences.

Because of Dwight's commitment to Green Chemistry, he helped us get funding for a BeyondBenign summer program.  Never in my thirty-year career have I ever been involve in such a powerful program.  Half of the students were going into their junior or senior years and the others were incoming freshmen.  The impact on those seniors has been incredible as they all headed of to college in some phase of science or technology.  One of the seniors is at Boston College as a freshman and chemistry has been a breeze for her.  A second girl is at Simmons College and the Department Chair at Simmons told me that they have never had a freshman so on track in chemistry since he has been there.  Our incoming freshmen at the time will now be juniors.  They are all at the top of the class.

It becomes so simple.  Dwight saw a program with potential and he trusted what he saw.  He worked hard to fund it and then in his Dwight Peavey way, he stepped back and smiled.  He knows what works.

None of this inspiration would have come to me, the teachers in the program or the turned-on students if Dwight hadn't stopped me at the NSTA Convention in Boston a few years ago and said, "Hey Peter, I think we can do something special at Quincy High School for your science program."

Robert Czerwinski, Acting Fire Chief in Pittsfield, Massachusetts says:

“Dwight has been wonderful, top caliber. I first met Dwight at a Massachusetts Hazardous Materials Technical Conference and learned how he worked with schools.  His presentation was engaging and entertaining. I could have listened to him all day. We were excited when he came to help Pittsfield Schools.  Five members of the Fire Department Inspections Bureau observed his process and we all hold Dwight and his team in the highest esteem. It gave us a better awareness of chemical safety issues in schools – especially chemical storage -- and helped us to become a local resource, getting involved in improving areas of school safety that previously may have gone unnoticed.  State regulation require quarterly inspection but now, in addition to checking routine items, we also check emergency showers, check storage cabinets looking for signs of leaks and spills, and look for problems such as materials left out on counters and proper labeling. 

Czerwinski encourages other schools not to be afraid of asking for help.  “Welcome them in with open arms.  Peavey’s team is here to help.  In a time when budgets are shirking, this is one program that brings benefits four-fold to the community.  The state doesn’t have the program or the resources. If you had to call in a Hazardous Waste Contractor it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

March 13, 2011

“I think this is something that people in the rest of the country need to know about; it should be part of our national history, and I’m hoping my book will help more people become aware of it. The story is still relevant today because safe handling of natural resources continues to be an issue, he said. The explosion was caused by a natural gas leak beneath the school.The book doesn’t focus solely on the disaster itself,” Brown said. “It’s also about the aftermath; how people coped with the depths of their grief — some families lost several children in a matter of moments — and how the rest of their lives turned out.”...

-- David Brown, quoted in March 17, 2011, "Lasting wounds: Almost 75 years after New London explosion, book brings national exposure." 

David Brown, an author and former East Texas journalist, is hoping to change that with the publication of an upcoming book titled “Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History.” The “3:17” refers to the time of the afternoon explosion.