Chemical Disaster Prevention
Key Findings: Chemical Incident Tracking 2021-2023
This analysis summarizes nearly three years of hazardous chemical incident data collected by the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters. Between January 1, 2021- October 15, 2023, there were at least 825 chemical incidents in the United States, which include fires, explosions and chemcial releases reported in the news, causing nearly 200 community evacuations and other preventable harms. The majority of chemical incidents in this period can be traced to the toxic lifecycle of fossil fuels.
This report profiles three chemical incidents that occurred within two weeks in January 2022 and recommends specific safety measures that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should require in its Risk Management Program (RMP) rule in order to prevent future chemical disasters.
This report profiles three facilities in Louisiana that put communities at risk by releasing toxic chemicals into the environment after being hit with high winds and flooding from Hurricane Ida, and recommends several ways the EPA could meaningfully update its Risk Management Program to prevent chemical disasters from happening in the future.
Product Testing in Dollar Stores
This product testing report found that over 50% of items purchased at major dollar stores in 2021 contained chemicals of concern. Notably, many of these items included toys and other products marketed to children that were found to contain lead, PVC and phthalates.
In 2015, we tested 164 products purchased at the four largest dollar store chains (Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and 99 Cents Only) in six states. 81% of the products tested (133 of 164) contained at least one hazardous chemical above levels of concern, including lead and other hazardous metals, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride plastic (PVC or vinyl). Low-income communities and communities of color rely on dollar stores for staples, and are already disproportionately exposed to harmful chemicals. We argue that this places a higher level of responsibility on dollar stores to ensure they are not selling toxic products.
Louisville Charter Policy Papers
This policy paper outlines how chemical production is inextricably linked to fossil fuels, and outlines a roadmap for plank #1 of the Louisville Charter: "Address the Significant Impacts of Chemical Production and Use on Climate Change." It concludes that we must significantly reduce and replace the use of fossil fuels in every part of the chemical industry, slow plastic production, and end the production of harmful and potent GHGs.
This policy brief defines cumulative impacts and outlines several model policies in the state of New Jersey that have been enacted or drafted to prevent already overburdened communities from being exposed to more toxic chemicals, and take cumulative impacts into account. This policy brief provides the beginning of a policy roadmap for plank # 2 of the Louisville Charter: "Prevent Disproportionate Exposures and Hazards, and Reduce Cumulative Impacts on Environmental Justice Communities."
This policy paper provides a roadmap for Plank #3 of the Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals: “Require Safer Substitutes and Solutions for a Non-Toxic Economy.” It diagnoses fundamental problems with chemical use and production today, highlighting the chemical industry’s lack of accountability for rampant chemical pollution that is damaging the health of communities and workers, and the stability of life-supporting ecosystems. It then offers ten recommendations for transforming the chemical industry. To begin with, seven high-hazard and fossil fuel intensive “platform” chemicals - methanol, ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, toluene, and xylene - which are the basis for 90% of the chemicals on the market today, must be replaced with lower hazard, non-fossil fuel derived substitutes. Benzene and butadiene, for example, are commonly released from chemical production sites in the US with devastating impacts on environmental justice communities like Louisville and Houston. See also this UMass Lowell webinar.
This report explores the disturbing relationship between sociodemographic characteristics—especially race—and drinking water violations.
We found that the rate of drinking water violations increased in:
- Communities of color
- Low-income communities
- Areas with more non-native English speakers
- Areas with more people living under crowded housing conditions
- Areas with more people with sparse access to transportation
The report focuses on health and safety risks in seven communities—Belvedere, Cedar Heights, Dunleith, Marshallton, Newport, Oakmont, and Southbridge—located along an industrial corridor in the northern portion of New Castle County. All of these communities have higher poverty rates and most have higher percentages of people of color than Delaware statewide averages. It found that risks of cancer and respiratory illnesses, as well as proximity to hazardous and polluting facilitieswere substantially higher for residents of the study communities than for Greenville, a predominantly white affluent community, or Delaware overall.
This report shows that people on the fenceline of chemical facilities live under the threat of chemical disasters, tend to have limited access to healthy food, and experience higher rates of cancer and respiratory illness. Fenceline zones around hazardous facilities are also disproportionately Black, Latino, and impoverished. This report focuses on key data nationally and additional data for nine EJ communities: Los Angeles, as well as Kern, Fresno, and Madera counties, CA; Houston and Dallas, TX; Louisville, KY; Albuquerque, NM; and Charleston, WV.
More than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones around 3,433 facilities in several common industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals. But who are the people that live daily with the ever-present danger of a chemical disaster? This report presents research showing that residents of chemical facility “vulnerability zones” are disproportionately Black (African American) or Latino, have higher rates of poverty than the U.S. as a whole, and have lower housing values, incomes, and education levels than the national average. The disproportionate or unequal danger is sharply magnified in the “fenceline” areas nearest the facilities.
Shining an early light on toxic chemical exposure from fracking & drilling
In 2014 a team of residents from the area of Pavillion, Wyoming, science and health experts, and environmental health groups, collaborated on a project to test the air and residents’ bodies for chemicals known to be linked to oil and gas production. This was the first study that combined environmental sampling with the monitoring of body tissues or fluids (biomonitoring ) of community members in very close proximity to gas production equipment and activities.
In 2012, twelve community groups in 6 states (Arkansas, Colorado, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming), with support from a team of national organizations and experts, decided to test the air near oil and gas development sites located in their communities. This report provided results from community air monitoring in those states near oil and gas development sites, including where hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” activities or waste disposal were taking place.