Thursday, May 8, 2008

Thirteen GROSS Things

The ThursdayThirteen subject today is GROSS. I can’t think of anything more gross and disgusting than an industrial accident that could have be prevented. At the end of each semester that I teach, I require the students to choose an accident to write a paper on and present in class. There is always much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I announce this, but after the presentations most of the students realize that it was the best part of the semester (and then they throw roses and cash at my feet.)

Here are thirteen of the presentations this semester.

Minamata – It is difficult to call this an accident. This is a case of a corporation dumping untreated chemical waste(knowingly and mostly legal) that was loaded with heavy metals most notably mercury into the Minamata Bay. The company continued this dumping for decades and only stopped when the chemical process no longer required mercury. The result was the mercury poisoning of generations of Japanese fishermen and their families.

DeBruce Grain Elevator Explosion – Grain Elevators are all over rural US and don’t appear to be dangerous, but grain dust explosion are powerful and deadly.

Praxair – This accident happened in St. Louis a few hot summers ago. The scene of compressed gas cylinders flying though the air made for memorable television news coverage.

Mexico City Explosion – In 1985, horribly large LPG (propane and butane) explosions incinerated hundreds of nearby residents in their sleep.

Texas City Disaster - This is the Granddaddy of all US disasters. It happened just after WWII when a large ship containing ammonium nitrate (used in the OK City bombing) exploded killing the crew, the firefighters and several hundred onlookers

BP America Refinery Explosion - A much more recent explosion in Texas City in 2005, that proves that the need for safety education is needed more than ever. The list of things that had to go wrong for this accident to occur is astounding and yet it happened.

Boston Molasses Flood – Although this incident that happened nearly 90 years ago, there are some scary similarities to recent accidents. It starts off sounding like a joke, what is slower than molasses in January. Well this molasses wave traveled 35 miles per hour and was responsible for 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Exxon Valdez – THE environmental disaster of this generation.

Ixtoc Oil Spill – The largest (no scratch that) second largest oil spill in the world after the Gulf War release, it lasted months.

Mayak Nuclear Disaster – The world’s second largest nuclear disaster after Chernobyl, it occurred during the cold war and information is only now being released.

Three Mile Island – This accident is considered to have stopped the nuclear power industry in the US.

Seveso – This was a large release of Dioxin in Italy.

Jilin Chemical Plant Explosion - The details of this explosion have never been released. The spill of toxic chemicals that flowed down river and into neighboring countries was hard to hide.


Kat's Krackerbox said...

I have to agree. The majority of these incidents could have been prevented and its sad that people just don't care.

Monday through Sunday said...


Nicholas said...

It's useful to be reminded of some of those. In many cases it was simply a matter of profits over safety.

Bina said...

Okay, now I have GOT to read about that Molasas thing. Too weird!