Washington, United States: The release of toxins through explosions, fires, leaks, spills and others have become the reason for hazardous chemical accidents that are happening in the United States. The incidents have occurred on an almost daily basis, a new analysis by non-profit researchers explained.
Reportedly, the study was released a month before the US regulators are expected to release the final rules – which will be aimed at preventing such incidents, as per the reports by the Guardian.
The preparation of the report was done by Coming Clean in partnership with a network of environmental and economic justice organizations in the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters. The report focused on the industrial incidents caused by chemical spills.
Accordingly, the research has surveyed that incidents were reported via news sources, due to which the stats should be regarded as conservative. The Guardian further stated that the conclusion of the research is similar to the analysis by the news organization in February – both underscored that such incidents are happening approximately every two days.
Between January 1, 2021, and October 15, 2023, the hazardous chemical incidents reached up to 829, according to the new report. According to the report, most incidents are in the fossil fuel industry – including the use, transport, production, and disposal of fossil fuels and fossil fuel products.
This data was provided by the researchers along with the searchable database of chemical incidents.
What does Coming Clean have to say?
The federal policy director for Coming Clean, Maya Nye, said, “Chemical disasters are happening across the entire chemical supply chain, which depends on fossil fuels for feedstock, energy and distribution,” according to the Guardian.
She continued, “So not only is the production of these chemicals contributing to chemical disasters, they are contributing to climate change, and endangering worker and community safety throughout their existence.”
Incidents that initiated the conversation
According to the reports by the news website, this topic gained focus following a few chemical accidents.
- In February, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in the Ohio village of East Palestine. The residents of the region complained about the health concerns linked to the incidents. Toxic Vinyl Chloride was released by the emergency crew to avoid exploding.
- Another incidence of chemical leak and fire was reported in August in Louisiana. At that time, a petroleum refinery caught fire due to the release of petrochemicals – leading to community evacuation. According to the reports, the released chemical is highly used to make gasoline, which is rich in benzene – a cancer-causing chemical.
Which state tops the chart?
As per the latest report, Texas reports the highest number of such incidents. The Guardian noted that the name was evident because the region has the highest number of facilities, i.e. 1,558. The data was based on the risk management program by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
However, according to last year’s Government Accountability Office (GOA) report, the nation is home to around 12,000 facilities that deal in “extremely hazardous chemicals.” The report further emphasized that the amount of chemicals produced can be harmful if accidentally released.
The findings by the report concluded that such incidents have killed as many as 43 people across the nation. Nearly 200 communities were required to evacuate because of such chemical releases. Additionally, the report claimed that over 150 incidents were responsible for injuries and hospitalization.
In this regard, former assistant administrator of EPA’s office of land and emergency management, Mathy Stanislaus, was quoted saying, “We have accepted this as a norm of the chemical industry for too long,” as per the Guardian.
“It’s become embedded in the business model of the chemical industry,” she noted.
What do public safety advocates have to say about rule changes?
Advocates for public safety and worker rights are struggling with industry associations over changes in rules. Some are concerned that the proposed rules may not offer sufficient protection, while business groups fear that the new requirements might be too burdensome and expensive.
The rule has been opposed by the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Chemistry Council, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute, among others.