December 18, 2013

Twelve people perished in the Dec. 5, 1957 natural gas blast in downtown Villa Rica.
The fateful day was Thursday, December 5, 1957. People were going about their normal business on a weekday...going to the store, keeping appointments, seeing to some early Christmas shopping. Some folks were simply out to cast their ballot in municipal elections going on at the time, but shortly after 11 a.m., a natural gas explosion took the lives of 12 people and injured at least 20 others...changing the lives of so many in an instant.
In 1997, the 40th anniversary of the explosion, the Douglas Sentinel published an article recounting that fateful day. Many folks remembered the sound of the explosion...“a loud whoomp, that was more like a clap than a bang...and others said that the town suddenly looked as if it had been hit by an atom bomb.”
Around 11:00 a.m. on December 5, 1957, a natural gas leak under Berry’s Pharmacy caused an explosion that destroyed four buildings and damaged several others in Villa Rica’s downtown. The explosion killed twelve and injured twenty. The tragedy highlighted the need for both an organized local emergency response unit and the use of odor in the natural gas supply.  

Photo slideshow

In 2013, the damage is long repaired, but the tragedy won’t ever be forgotten.

“It was tragic, sad, but it’s our history and we need to remember those that were killed,” said Bailey. “We need to remember the lessons learned.”

December 04, 2013


The Science of Citizenship. What’s at stake when schools skimp on science? by Belle Boggs. Published in the November/December 2013 issue of Orion magazine.

Science education is the cornerstone of cultural literacy, Belle Boggs argues. Yet in the U.S., students are woefully uneducated in science, and unprepared for the present and future challenges of climate change.
Read "The Science of Citizenship" to explore what the ideal science classroom looks like and what some schools are doing to improve science education--and our future.
Linda Stroud, 2013 Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero
Excellence in Science

December 03, 2013

Who Is Your 2014 Healthy Schools Hero?
Please post. Please forward.
Attention:  Science educators, STEM advocates, professionals in public health, school health, environmental health, facilities management, IAQ, IPM, health and safety, lab safety, school security, emergency and risk management, asthma educators, first responders, school administrators, nurses, advocates, parents and students.

Do you know someone whose sense of responsibility, inspirational leadership, and exemplary persistence and courage protects children from school hazards and unhealthy school conditions?

Send your hero's story, name, and email/phone # by February 1, 2014 to

The annual Healthy Kids Healthy Schools Hero Award was created as an annual opportunity to tell the story of the 1937 Texas School Explosion and to inspire leadership to protect children from the chemical hazards and unhealthy conditions in today's schools.  (HEROES 2004 - 2013)

March 18, 2014 is the 77th anniversary of the 1937 Texas School Explosion -- the worst school disaster in American history. Just minutes before the end of the school day, a gas explosion killed more than 300 people, mostly students. In their new state-of-the-art public school no expense had been spared except when it came to safety.

Lessons Learned. Lives Saved. The disaster resulted in a law that required adding a warning odor to natural gas, thus saving millions of lives all over the world. However, the false economies and short-sighted decisions that led to the 1937 explosion are still common in too many schools today. 

The Unfinished Legacy: Leadership for Excellence Needed.  The story of the 1937 Texas School Explosion needs to be part of our national legacy. Let's make March 18 an annual day to prioritize the values and technical skills we need to live safely with 21st century chemicals and technology.

Send your hero's story, name, and email/phone # by February 1, 2014 to

- - -
*Photo (Ellie Goldberg, March 2005) 
The cenotaph, erected in 1939 is the memorial to victims of the 1937 school 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.

Do we have a false sense of security regarding safety in our labs? A recent study commissioned by the UCLA Center for Laboratory Safety suggests that this may be the case.  

Read more:

Also: Safety survey reveals lab risks.  Questionnaire suggests researchers not as safe as they feel.
Thanks to Laboratory Safety Institute for calling attention to this article.

Gas lines not marked on utility maps...

Princeton University evacuates 11 buildings on campus after gas line is struck.

December 02, 2013

"Lessons Learned from AHERA: Asbestos Management in Schools" Dr. Charles Levenstein 
at the 9th Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference, March 22-24, 2013 in Washington, DC.
1. Passing a law does not solve the problem
2. Management (schools and elsewhere) may not be competent to manage highly hazardous technology.
3. Only vigilance by workers (teachers) and users (parents) can ensure compliance -- and sometimes may not be enough.
See the complete talk at LINK 

More at ADAO 2013 Annual International Asbestos Awareness Conference Agenda & Videos

November 23, 2013

I-Team: Thousands Of Gas Leaks Across Mass.

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve


November 12, 2013

The Texas Engineering License 
Photo: Ellie Goldberg, 2005

Purpose and History (

The Engineering Registration Act (Article 3271a, V.A.T.S.) was enacted as the result of a tragic school explosion at New London, Texas, in 1937. In response to concerns that the public could not identify who was qualified to practice engineering, the 45th Texas Legislature passed the Act as emergency legislation and it became law when signed by the Governor on May 28, 1937. The 59th Texas Legislature rewrote the original Registration Act. This Act became law on August 30, 1965, and was called the "Texas Engineering Practice Act."

The authors of the Texas Engineering Practice Act included the following statement in Section 1001.004 of the Act:

"The legislature recognizes the vital impact that the rapid advance of knowledge of the mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences as applied in the practice of engineering has on the lives, property, economy, and security of state residents and the national defense. The purpose of this chapter is to: protect the public health, safety, and welfare; enable the state and the public to identify persons authorized to practice engineering in this state; and fix responsibility for work done or services or acts performed in the practice of engineering. The legislature intends that: the privilege of practicing engineering be entrusted only to a person licensed and practicing under this chapter; only a person licensed under this chapter may: engage in the practice of engineering; be represented in any way as any kind of “engineer”; or make any professional use of the term “engineer”; and this chapter will be strictly complied with and enforced. This chapter shall be liberally construed to carry out the intent of the legislature."

It therefore becomes apparent that this legislation was not enacted to restrict the number of practitioners, but rather to "safeguard life, health, and property and protect the public welfare." 

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers is authorized and required to license those individuals who are qualified by law to practice engineering, and to regulate the practice of engineering in Texas. To accomplish this mission, the Legislature further empowered the Board to make and enforce the rules dealing with licensing, compliance and enforcement, and standards of conduct and ethics.

November 11, 2013

Incident v. Impact: Why Leading a Safety Culture Matters 11/10/13 

by SBI, safetyBUILT-IN (a division of SCInc.) is a safety-leadership learning and development company.  

What do we think about safety and what do we believe about it?  Is it a compliance policy that we follow and enforce, or is a culture that we live and lead?  Here is an excerpt from our two-day safety-leadership workshop, “From Compliance to Culture,” that helps illustrate the difference.
The video relates a story I have often shared in my safety-leadership sessions to call attention to the abject deficiencies in how we tend to view safety in an organization.
Too often we speak of safety in the language of incidents rather than impact.  The former allows us to distance ourselves too easily and too neatly from the full impact of what happens when someone gets injured or killed on the job.
But by reevaluating how we view safety and what we believe about it–especially in light of the impact an injury or death has on those who are left behind–we can begin to build and lead a safety culture in more effective ways.  Watch the video below for the full explanation.  

November 07, 2013

Forget green: Healthy buildings are the next big thing,

No need to worry about health insurance. What people really need are healthier buildings.

And architects? Think of them as “upstream doctors,” working to beat sickness and disease at their source, before people are affected...

October 31, 2013

Remembering October 31, 1963 

October 31, 1963 The Indiana State Fair Coliseum Explosion happened during the Holiday on Ice Halloween show. Gas from a rusty tank supplying propane to the popcorn warmer was leaking into the concession area, slowly filling the unventilated room.  Fifty-four people were killed on the scene and another 20 later died of their injuries. More than 400 people were injured. 

October 31, 1963  Marietta, GA Atherton's Drug Store Explosion. A gas main under the street ruptured and leaked gas into Atherton's basement. The staff of Kennestone Hospital were at a Halloween party before doctors and nurses dashed in, still wearing their costumes. Seven persons were killed and 25 injured, 8 seriously.

Many news articles, photos, films and personal accounts online.

The Atherton Drug Store Explosion Marietta Daily Journal  Fifty years ago, Thursday, Oct. 31, 1963, the City of Marietta suffered one of its greatest tragedies – a gas explosion that ripped through the front portion of the ... 

Marietta residents recount gas explosion 50 years ago Marietta Daily Journal Raines sits in front of Marietta Pizza Company Saturday and looking at a scrapbook his wife kept for him as he remembers the explosion that killed seven people ...  

Retro Indy: The 1963 Coliseum explosion (Article and Photos)

September 27, 2013

September 26. 2013  School claims pipeline company did not properly notify it of a planned, controlled release.

September 23, 2013

HEROES for water, energy and food...  
GRACE Communications Foundation builds partnerships and develops innovative media strategies that increase public awareness of the relationships among food, water and energy systems. By mobilizing philanthropic resources and collaborating with like-minded non-profits and academic institutions, we educate consumers and advocate for policies that:

  • address the environmental and public health effects of industrial food systems
  • support the development of sustainable food distribution networks
  • result in common sense use of water resources for energy and food production
  • provide clean energy alternatives to conventional power systems
  • create and promote prevention techniques individuals and communities can use to improve their health

September 19, 2013

East Texas Utopia: Remembering the New London School Explosion 9/18/2013

By Amy Burke,

Photo: Ellie Goldberg, 2007

London Museum & Tea Room
690 S Main Street
New London, TX 75682
(903) 895-4602
It was March 18, 1937, and it was one of the most tragic days in Texas history, but it brought forth a law that would save countless lives in its wake.

The explosion that day at the New London Junior-Senior High School could be heard for miles — ripping down walls, smashing cars and killing around 300 unsuspecting students, teachers and visitors.

At the height of the East Texas oil boom, how could something like this happen at one of the richest rural school districts in the country? I set out to find some answers by visiting the place where it all began — at the self-proclaimed home of the original Friday Night Lights — New London.

The town is small — home to less than 1,000 residents — but the resilience of the locals is evident, especially inside the museum that pays tribute to the school and the victims in the aftermath of one of the biggest school disasters in the country....

September 09, 2013

Explosion Survivor Dies

Explosion Survivor
Billy Gene Thompson, 89, of New London, died Sept. 7, 2013, in a Henderson nursing home. He was born June 2, 1924, in Rusk County to Alvin A. Thompson and Bonnie Freeman. He survived the New London school explosion, and served in the Navy during World War II. He was married to Margaret Thompson for 66 years, and retired from Kelly-Springfield Tire Company. He was a member of London Methodist Church. Survivors include his sons, Kent and Linda Thompson, New London, and Gregg and Jyoti Thompson, Overton; six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two sons, Rodney and Scott Thompson. Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, at Burrows Overton Funeral Home with the Revs. Jim Hilton and Jerry Smith officiating. Burial will be in Lakewood Cemetery, Henderson. Visitation will be 6 to 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, at the funeral home. Published in Tyler Morning Telegraph on September 9, 2013 



September 04, 2013

EPA funds removal of chemicals in schoolsTracey C. O'Neill, Cranston Herald  

The result of a hazardous waste settlement between commercial waste hauler Northland Environmental, its owner PSC Environmental Services (PSC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has resulted in a benefit to 60 schools in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The settlement, resulting from EPA claims of state and federal hazardous waste violations at a Providence facility, led to the announcement of the statewide cleanup of hazardous chemicals at 33 Rhode Island schools. All schools lie within a 50-mile radius of the Providence facility where the violations took place.

New London remembers former mayor, museum director Mollie WardNEW LONDON, TX (KLTV) 
An East Texas woman who dedicated most of her life and all of her time to her community has passed away.

Mollie Ward, who was once the mayor of New London, died this morning at the age of 86. Listing all of Mollie's accomplishments is nearly impossible. There are many things that Mollie will always be remembered for--- including starting the New London Museum, which honors the victims and survivors of the New London School explosion.

In 1937, when the explosion occurred, Mollie Ward became a survivor. She used her life, which was spared, to make sure her classmates that were killed in the explosion would never be forgotten.


August 22, 2013

By: Stephanie Schultz/Melissa Brunner, August 15, 2013 (News video and story.)

VIA Healthy Schools Network NEWSLICE

New chemistry teacher alerts school to explosives in school chem lab inventory. School superintendent is grateful. A local hero! EG

August 21, 2013

customImageSensible Steps to Improving Chemical Management in Schools 

The following are some useful links included in the webinar: 
"Safe Chemical Management in Schools":

“Sensible Steps To Healthier School Environments” guide:

Sensible Steps Quick Assessment:

EPA schools website:

We also invite you to join us for our next webinar: “Cleaning and Maintenance, Sensible Steps for Creating Healthier School Environments" September 25, 2013.

To register for that webinar, go here: .

To download the presentation from this session, or for additional information on other
Sensible Steps to Healthier School Environments webinars, please go to:

If you would like to order printed copies of the Sensible Steps to Healthier School Environments guide, please call 303-312-6223.

Best Regards!
The Sensible Steps to Healthier School Environments Team

August 19, 2013

Contractor at Tompkins Elementary Twice Strikes Gas Line
Posted by Krista Madsen (Editor),  August 19, 2013

For the second time in just over a week, the Croton Fire Department responded to a gas leak at Carrie E. Tompkins Elementary School on Gerstein Street, evacuating nearby homes after a gas main was again struck by a contractor.

At 1:25 p.m. on Saturday, fire responders responded to a call for a break, which Chief John Munson established at the scene was between the street main and the curb valve shutoff to the elementary school. It's "a high-pressure main that feeds the school," officials said.

Police and fire volunteers worked to evacuate nearby homes, and officials contacted Con Edison to shut the gas off. By 2:19 p.m., the situation was considered under control, with roads reopened and people allowed to return to their homes on the block.

At 2:30 p.m. on August 9, eight days prior, the Croton FD and police responded to a main line break at the school after a contractor doing work here struck the line. Multiple homes were evacuated until the gas levels were deemed safe.

June 13, 2013

Pipelines, Liability and Insurance?
...In 1937, about 300 schoolchildren and teachers died in the New London school tragedy, the worst gas explosion in Texas history. Lawsuits brought by parents and families against the school district and the Parade Gasoline Company, whose leaking gas fueled the explosion, were all dismissed when the court found no liability.

Things have not improved much today...EG

They crisscross the country in a complex maze just below ground level, carrying flammable, dangerous, and highly polluting liquids and poisonous gases. They are capable of catastrophic failures that have killed people and devastated property. They corrode, they leak, they explode — and they do it with some regularity.
The millions of miles of gas and oil pipelines in the United States are vital to every aspect of modern life, but they are also perilous. And companies that own them are not required by state or federal law to carry insurance on one inch of those lines. Most Texas cities, including Fort Worth, require insurance policies, but usually in amounts that wouldn’t cover the damages from any sizable pipeline failure. ...

Read more:

May 31, 2013

New London book author to speak at Kilgore College
“My hope is that the legacy of the hundreds of students and teachers who died on March 18, 1937, will someday be so embedded in our national consciousness that it is never forgotten and continues to help keep our schools safe for future generations. It is one of the best examples there is of how critical it is that we know and understand history lessons that might help us avoid tragic mistakes of the past.”

May 30, 2013

Webinar Series

Beyond Benign is leading a series of webinars aimed at high school chemistry teachers. Register here to join us!

May 30, 2013, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm EST
Introducing Green Chemistry into the High School
June 6, 2013, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm EST
Connecting Chemistry Concepts to Cutting-Edge Science Innovations

June 13, 2013, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm PST
Safer Chemistry: Drop-In Replacement Labs

May 08, 2013

  • SBI

    safetyBUILT-IN is committed to improving safety performance and culture. Our goal is to deliver "best-ever safety-performance years" through our programs. At the same time we recognize that safety performance is simply a barometer of an organization's safety leadership. Our programs develop leaders at all levels and train them how to think and how to lead safety as a core value.

    A Three-Step Process for Better Safety-Leadership Walkthroughs (Pt 2)
  • A Three-Step Process for Better Safety-Leadership Walkthroughs (Pt 1)
  • Safety-Leadership Walkthroughs: Causes of Missed Opportunities (Part 3)
  • Safety-Leadership Walkthroughs: Causes of Missed Opportunities (Part 2)
  • Safety-Leadership Walkthroughs: Causes of Missed Opportunities (Part 1)