Natural Gas Smells Like Rotten Eggs Because A Texas School Exploded
You know natural gas smells like the devil ate tacos, and you probably also know that natural gas is naturally odorless -- that smell comes from an additive called mercaptan. So who the hell thought that was a bright idea?
The Gruesome Backstory:
It was all thanks to the Consolidated School in New London, Texas on March 18, 1937.
London Museum in New London/AP
Renamed the Consolidated Rubble in New London, Texas shortly after.
As was common at the time, builders had supplied natural gas to the building by tapping into a nearby Parade Gasoline Company line. While the students sat around in their shiny new classrooms, a prolific leak from a janky pipe filled the building's basement with gas. Then a maintenance worker flicked a basement light switch, "the ground bounced," and the building collapsed. The resulting scene was so horrific that even Adolf Hitler sent his condolences. No joke.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H1216-0500-002 / CC-BY-SA
Just to be absolutely clear. This Adolf Hitler.
Following the loss of 300 of the school's 500 students, Texas Legislature enacted regulations requiring refiners to add an easily detectable scent to natural gas, and the entire industry soon followed suit. Why they chose to make it smell like a rundown Shoney's restroom during the breakfast buffet and not, say, cinnamon with a nice hint of vanilla, is anybody's guess.
Jordan Breeding also writes officially for Paste Magazine, unofficially on the twitter and his blog, and with a dirty, dirty spray can in various back alleys. Dr. Claudio Buttice, Pharm.D., is a former hospital pharmacist who eventually grew bored being just a doctor, and became a freelance medical writer. He's also a screenwriter and journalist who contributed to several magazines such as The Ring of Fire, Digital Journal, Techopedia and Business Insider -- and he always managed to look cool, every time. If you want to offer Dr. Buttice a writing gig or just want to throw money in his general direction, feel free to contact him at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.
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