Tianjin Blasts Chinese Safety into the Limelight Photo: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Tianjin Blasts Chinese Safety into the Limelight

The Tianjin explosions could be a major turning point for China, much in the way the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland was for America. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed soon after and led to sweeping reforms across the country.

No one was injured in the warehouse fire south of Tokyo, in Kawasaki, two days ago that took 14 fire trucks to control. And no one was injured hours earlier in the western Tokyo suburb when a building at U.S. Army depot holding compressed oxygen and nitrogen exploded. But when you think about Asia, warehouses and explosions, the first thing that comes to mind is the devastating fireballs that leveled parts of Tianjin, China, on Aug. 12.

The multiple blasts claimed at least 129 lives (44 are still missing) so far, with at least 1,000 left homeless. The warehouse stored hazardous chemical including sodium cyanide, potassium nitrate, ammonium nitrate, sodium nitrate, and calcium carbide – all very hazardous materials that 2001 Chinese guidelines stated should not be within 1 km of a residence. The upscale homes obliterated by the explosion were just 600 m away.

In the aftermath, there are signs of encouragement. Chinese News Service reported that “Premier Li Keqiang vowed that a thorough investigation of the accident was already underway and promised that there would be open and transparent disclosure of information to the public.”

The Chinese cabinet also called for government agencies to “learn bitter lessons” from this event and to crack down on illegal activities.

China’s GDP skyrocketed from $440 billion in 1993 to $9.24 trillion in 2013. Over that time, the Red Dragon has become the world leader in greenhouse gas emissions, with air pollution shaving years of citizens’ lives. [http://www.pnas.org/content/110/32/12936.abstract]

This event could be a major turning point for China, much in the way the Cuyahoga River fire in Cleveland was for America. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed soon after and led to sweeping reforms across the country.

If China wants to enjoy life at the top, where the air should be much clearer, or at least breathable, it would be wise to not only look at how it’s industry is storing hazardous materials, but at what hazardous materials are being pumped in the air.

Read the full article “Tianjin Blast Leads to Chinese Safety Crackdown” on New Equipment Digest, an EHS companion site within Penton's Manufacturing & Supply Chain Group.

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