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Hazardous material losses have become so common that they rarely make headlines. When a tanker truck full of some chemical overturns on the interstate, or a train with a couple of tank cars derails, we see a few helicopter news shots, there is a bit of local fuss, and that’s about it. Only when there is serious loss of life and the need to evacuate an entire city does a hazmat loss seem significant. Three thousand people, for example, were evacuated in the May 25, 2004, fire at a swimming pool chemical plant in Conyers, Ga., which drew 150 fire fighters and sent more than 100 fume victims to area hospitals but, fortunately, killed only 2,000 fish, crabs, and frogs in the poisonous runoff.

Such was not the case 75 years earlier, when more than 120 patients, nurses, and doctors died and many more were permanently injured in one of the worst hospital hazmat losses ever, occurring at the Cleveland Clinic. Today, the Cleveland Clinic, located on the city’s main avenue, is a world renowned center for heart surgery and other cures. It was already well known on May 15, 1929, for many of its physicians, including Frank Bunts, John Phillips, and George W. Crile. Crile was famous as a pioneer in blood transfusions and nerve-blocking anesthesia. (His son later became famous as a producer for CBS’s 60 Minutes.)

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