In my early years with Young Living, I was a big fan of its founder and CEO, Gary Young. I particularly loved hearing Young’s stories about building the company from nothing.
Even then, however, I remember being alarmed when he described making a homemade distiller by welding two pressure cookers together.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for DIYing, but for me, safety always comes first.
The more I read into Young Living, the more I started to realize that perhaps all this “hoopla” about Gary Young’s distillery prowess (like this blog post or this and this history sketch) might be just edge on the sided of distorted marketing mumbo jumbo. I was worried. Could Gary Young’s really be feigning expertise in an area of something seemingly so complex?
Then, in 2000, my fears were confirmed.
That year, on August 17, one of Gary Young’s famous homemade distillers dramatically ruptured. The explosion of the huge distillery fatally wounded Juan Gomez, a father of four, and a worker at the Young Living farm in Mona, Utah.
This heartbreaking episode spurred an eye-opening UOSHD investigation. The findings were shocking. Not only was the fatal accident avoidable, UOSHD realized that in many ways Gary Young’s purported “expertly developed” distillers were actually fraught with errors and high-risk elements. One UOSHD report on case reads:
“No consideration was given in the design and construction of distillation vessels with respect to American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) requirements pertaining to the design and construction of pressure vessels.”
In fact, the agency further exposed that the exploding vessel had not been equipped with a single type of safety device that could relieve overpressurization. Eventually, Gary Young unit was cited with over seven different violations.
At first, when I read the UOSHD report, I found myself wanting to defend Young. Perhaps, he was unaware of the risks. Perhaps, Gary Young’s true lack of distillery education (see M.D. Eva F. Briggs, article) prevented him from anticipating such an error.
But, it turns out that only a year earlier UOSHD had found and warned YLEO that Gary’s distillers were subpar. In fact, two other YELO distillation units were forcefully taken out of service after the inspector noticed safety violations. A year later—without significant safety adjustments made—the August 17th tragedy occurred.
Ultimately, I can’t stop thinking about the implications of this preventable tragedy. If the Young Living founder is this flippant about the safety of his employees, how can I possibly trust the safety of Young Living’s essential oils?