A joint project of Coming Clean & the Environmental Justice Health Alliance
Chemical fires, explosions and toxic spills are shockingly common in the US. Communities of color and low-income communities are most at risk.
Across the United States, over 12,000 high-risk chemical facilities put 39% of the US population (124 million people) who live within three miles of these sites at constant risk of a chemical disaster. The full vulnerability zones for these industrial and commercial sites can extend up to twenty-five miles in radius. Many communities of color and low-income communities face disproportionate risk from these facilities, and often face other health hazards as well, such as high levels of toxic pollution, and higher rates of hospitalization and mortality from COVID-19.
But commonsense solutions exist that can prevent chemical disasters and protect workers and communities at the fenceline.
The EPA’s Risk Management Plan (RMP) Rule regulates these 12,000 high-risk chemical facilities nationwide and is currently being updated. Coming Clean and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA) are mobilizing a broad coalition of stakeholders to demand a stronger rule that will protect workers and communities, and prevent chemical disasters.
By State Representatives Attica Scott (KY) and Larry Lambert (DE)
"For decades our constituents have lived under the constant threat of explosions or toxic releases in our neighborhoods, never knowing what or when the next disaster will be... This week we joined more than 70 elected officials from 16 states and territories nationwide in writing a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan urging him to place disaster prevention and environmental justice at the center of an updated rule."
By Pam Nixon (WV, People Concerned About Chemical Safety)
"Have you ever watched somebody shake a can of soda, and then get ready to crack open the top? You know it’s going to explode, but you don’t know when, or how bad it will be. That’s what it’s like living near a chemical plant. Except the consequences can be deadly. As a lifelong resident of Kanawha County, West Virginia — an area that has been home to dozens of industrial facilities making everything from pesticides to plastics — I know this uncertain feeling all too well."
Reports & Resources
- Transitioning to Safer Substitutes. Our infographic shows how a water reclamation plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico was able to stop storing dangerous quantities of chlorine gas on site by switching to an ultraviolet light disinfection system, after residents took action.
- Unprepared for Disaster: Chemical Hazards in the Wake of Hurricane Ida. In this 2021 report, we profile 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. We recommend several ways the EPA could meaningfully update its Risk Management Program to prevent chemical disasters from happening in the first place.
- Read our 2021 public comments to the EPA, calling for a stronger Risk Management Plan (RMP) rule.
- Life at the Fenceline. Our research shows that people on the fenceline live under the threat of chemical disasters, have limited access to healthy food, and experience higher rates of cancer and respiratory illness.
- Who’s In Danger? Our research shows that the people most at risk from chemical disasters are communities of color and low-income communities.
- The Louisville Charter is our roadmap for transforming the chemical industry, endorsed by over 125 organizations. Safer chemicals and processes exist. We must phase out the production of chemicals that put communities in danger and contribute to climate change - and take immediate action to strengthen and restore communities that have have borne the brunt of legacy and ongoing contamination by the chemical industry.