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The Big Answer

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Chemical Accidents

an article by our site

The 1,000 reported chemical accidents at facilities holding large quantities of anhydrous ammonia resulted in 19 deaths, 1,651 injuries, and nearly $350 million in property damage. A total of 63,676 people in the facilities and surrounding communities and neighborhoods had to be evacuated when accidents occurred.

In the insightful article How Americans Became Exposed to Biohazards in the Greatest Uncontrolled Experiment Ever Launched, David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz tell us that the culprits behind these experiments are “the silent killers called lead. And vinyl. And formaldehyde. And asbestos. And Bisphenol A. And polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). And thousands more innovations brought to us by the industries that once promised 'better living through chemistry,' but instead produced a toxic stew that has made every American a guinea pig and has turned the United States into one grand unnatural experiment.

Today, we are all unwitting subjects in the largest set of drug trials ever. Without our knowledge or consent, we are testing thousands of suspected toxic chemicals and compounds, as well as new substances whose safety is largely unproven and whose effects on human beings are all but unknown. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) itself has begun monitoring our bodies for 151 potentially dangerous chemicals, detailing the variety of pollutants we store in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat. None of the companies introducing these new chemicals has even bothered to tell us we’re part of their experiment.”

The authors say that all the unsafe, untested chemicals in our food and environment have made each of us a walking toxic waste dump. Although most people consider pollution and nuclear radiation the biggest dangers to our air, toxic chemicals increasingly find their way into the air, particularly around major cities.

Between 1982 and 1986, the Chicago metropolitan area had the most chemical accidents (54), but 22 other metropolitan areas had five or more accidents during that time where acute toxic chemicals were released into the air. Only these 23 are included in the state totals on the chart, above.

In response to the chemical accident that occurred in Bhopal, India, in 1984, and a series of large chemical accidents in the United States in the late 1980s, the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws intended to minimize the likelihood and consequences of catastrophic chemical accidents. The most recently enacted of these laws created a new regulatory program called the Risk Management Program. This program, which took effect in June 1999, requires certain chemical facilities to implement chemical accident prevention and preparedness measures, and to submit summary reports to the government every five years.

Accidents Reported in Risk Management Program Info by Chemical Involved in the Accident for the Entire Period 1994-1999
Chemical Name and Number of Accidents

  1. Ammonia (anhydrous) 656
  2. Chlorine 518
  3. Hydrogen Fluoride 101
  4. Flammable Mixture 99
  5. Chlorine Dioxide 55
  6. Propane 54
  7. Sulfur Dioxide 48
  8. Ammonia (concentration 20% or greater) 43
  9. Hydrogen chloride (anhydrous) 32
  10. Hydrogen 32
  11. Methane 30
  12. Butane 26
  13. Ethylene oxide 19
  14. Hydrogen Sulfide 19
  15. Formaldehyde 17
  16. Isobutane 17
  17. Pentane 17
  18. Titanium tetrachloride 15
  19. Phosgene 12
  20. Nitric Acid (concentration 80% or greater) 12
  21. Ethane 12
  22. Oleum 11
  23. Ethylene 11
  24. Vinyl chloride 11
  25. Trichlorosilane 11
  26. Methyl chloride 10
  27. Toluene diisocyanate 10
  28. Propylene 10
(Source: Chemical accident risks in U.S. industry - A preliminary analysis of accident risk data from U.S. hazardous chemical facilities, by James C. Belke, United States Environmental Protection Agency)

The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April 2013, which killed 15 people and injured 200, ought to be a wake-up call to lawmakers to push for safer conditions.

From 2002 to 2007, 423 chemical incidents in elementary and secondary schools were reported by 15 participating states, which is just a fraction of such incidents, since 35 states were non-participants. And 30% of these resulted in injuries.

The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April 2013, which killed 15 people and injured 200, ought to be a wake-up call to lawmakers to push for safer conditions
The deadly explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April 2013, which killed 15 people and injured 200, ought to be a wake-up call to lawmakers to push for safer conditions