Today in Hazmat History – May 17

Hazmat History

By Richard T. Cartwright, PE, CHMM, (IHMM, AHMP and APICS) Fellow

The saying, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it” is more than a cliché. It is a reminder that we must constantly be learning from the past. Here’s a look back at major historical events that happened today in the world of hazardous materials.

May 17, 1994

Fire broke out in an overcrowded Honduran prison where 103 inmates died. The fire started from two small refrigerators. The prison was designed to house 800 inmates; it was holding 2,000 prisoners. Guards reported that they had to fire their guns in air to keep prisoners from attacking firefighters and escaping. Inmates claimed that the guards were preventing the prisoners from fleeing the fire.

May 17, 1912

America’s liquefied petroleum gas industry is born when gas cylinders are installed on John W. Gahring’s farm near Waterford, Pa. The American Gasol Company of West Virginia hired A. F. Young Hardware and Plumbing Company for this first installation of cylinders of “bottled gas” to be used for cooking and heating.

May 17, 1883

Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius developed ideas for his dissociation theory during a sleepless night. His theory explains that substances like salt (sodium chloride) when dissolved in water, dissociate (separate) into electrically charged ions (positive sodium ions and negative chloride ions). This idea was controversial at first. Today, it is a basic fact in understanding the chemistry of ionic compounds.

May 17, 1749

Edward Jenner, the English surgeon who discovered vaccination for smallpox, was born. He called his treatment method vaccination, using the Latin word “vacca,” meaning cow, and “vaccinia,” meaning cowpox. Jenner also introduced the word virus.

Historical hazardous materials management events are posted 365 days a year at this LinkedIn discussion group.

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