The following is from the environmental themed advice column EarthTalk®, by the Editors of the non-profit publication E/The Environmental Magazine, that well be regularly featuring here on CLs Green Community.
Dear EarthTalk: December 2010 marked the 26th anniversary of the infamous Bhopal disaster in India when chemical company Union Carbide leaked deadly gases, killing thousands of people. What safeguards are in place today to prevent incidents like this? — Charlene Colchester, via e-mail
Bhopal should have been a wake up call, but it is unclear whether chemical plants around the world are any safer a quarter century after the December 1984 disasterduring which some 40 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaked from a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide (now part of Dow Chemical), killing 2,259 people immediately and causing lifelong health problems and premature death for tens of thousands more.
In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees chemical and other facilities that deal with hazardous materials, making sure various process safety routines are followed so as to prevent or minimize the catastrophic injury or death that could result from an accidental or purposeful release of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals. Also, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security instituted its own Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) that chemical and other hazardous materials facilities must follow or be shut down.