Millions Living In Chemical Disaster Zones in 16 States

For Immediate Release

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Michael Crocker
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Millions Living In Chemical Disaster Zones in 16 States

Equivalent Risks Eliminated with Safer Chemicals at 162 Plants in Same States

WASHINGTON - A new survey of data on 18 “high risk” chemical
facilities in 16 states shows that they put more than 27 million people
at risk of sudden death or injury in the event of a terrorist attack or
accident. Contained within the first five miles of the risk zones
surrounding these plants are 1,702 schools and 94 hospitals in the
sampled states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and
Louisiana. Chemical plant risk zones frequently
extend more than 10 miles downwind into densely populated urban areas
due to the bulk storage or use of poison gases such as chlorine. Twelve
of the 18 plants examined each put 1 million or more people at risk. 
More than 1,700 plants in these 16 states each put 10,000 or more
people at risk. The good news, however, is that these risks are
preventable. Since 1999, at least 287 chemical facilities nationwide
have eliminated these risks to 38.5 million Americans by converting to
safer chemicals.  In these 16 states there are 162 plants using safer
chemical processes that eliminated these risks for 21.6 million people.
 

The analysis combined chemical facility reports filed with the
Environmental Protection Agency with data from the Environmental
Systems Research Institute, the US Geological Survey and reports by the
Congressional Research Service and the Center for American Progress.

The Department of Homeland Security has identified 6,300 “high risk”
chemical facilities in the U.S.  The Congress is now considering
legislation that could reduce or eliminate these risks in the event of
a terrorist attack or accident by requiring the use of safer chemical
processes. “Safer, cost effective chemical processes are already being
used in a wide variety of facilities. Research shows this type of
modernization is often inexpensive, and can even save money, create
jobs and result in a longer term investment in our communities,” said
Mae Stevens, Greenpeace policy analyst.
More than 100 million Americans live in "vulnerability zones,”
surrounding just 300 chemical plants. A catastrophic release of a gas
like chlorine would form a toxic cloud that would be hazardous for up
to 20 miles downwind. According to a U.S. Naval Research Laboratory
report, an attack at just one of these plants could put 100,000 people
at risk of death or injury within the first 30 minutes of the incident.

Simple, cost-effective changes, such as substituting safer chemicals or
processes for lethal gases stored on-site can protect millions of
people from harm. In September, the House Energy and Commerce Committee
plans to take up a package of legislation (H.R. 2868 and H.R. 3258)
that will reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack.
“We cannot allow chemical industry lobbyists to dictate the terms of
this debate,” said President Obama when he served in the Senate. Rick
Hind, Legislative Director at Greenpeace, declared “It’s now up to the
new Congress to protect the millions of Americans still at risk once
and for all.”

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