Do a "Dangerous Dozen" Chemical Companies Endanger Millions of Americans?

Oct. 20, 2004
A new report from U.S. Public Interest Research Groups (PIRG) alleges 12 companies each endanger more than 5 million Americans in the event of accidents or terrorist attacks at their chemical facilities.

U.S. PIRG, the national advocacy office for the state Public Interest Research Groups, called on these "dangerous dozen" to reduce the threat to communities near their facilities by using safer chemicals and processes wherever possible.

"It is unacceptable that these 12 companies endanger so many lives," said U.S. PIRG Environmental Health Advocate Meghan Purvis. "Unfortunately, the Bush administration and the chemical industry continue to oppose strong, mandatory chemical security regulations."

Across the United States, thousands of industrial facilities owned by companies such as Clorox, Dow and DuPont use and store hazardous chemicals in quantities large enough to threaten surrounding communities in the event of an accidental release or deliberate terrorist attack, according to U.S. PIRG. The report, "Dangerous Dozen: A Look at How Chemical Companies Jeopardize Millions of Americans," analyzes the chemical companies' own estimates submitted to EPA. Findings include:

The 12 companies whose facilities endanger the most people are JCI Jones Chemical, the Clorox Co., Kuehne Chemical, KIK Corp., DuPont, Pioneer Companies, Clean Harbors, GATX Corp., PVS Chemicals, Dow Chemical, Ferro Corp. and Occidental.

The 12 parent companies profiled in Dangerous Dozen own 154 high-hazard facilities in 31 different states.

The three companies whose facilities put the greatest number of people at risk are JCI Jones Chemical, the Clorox Co., and Kuehne Chemical, which put a total of more than 20 million, 14 million and 12 million people at risk, respectively.

Since 1990, the National Response Center (NRC) has received more than 8,400 reports of incidents involving oil or chemical spills at facilities owned by these 12 parent companies.

Six of the 12 companies profiled in Dangerous Dozen are members of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), a lobbying organization that works on behalf of the chemical industry. At press time, a spokesperson for the ACC said the group had not seen the report and could not comment.

"Despite lax security at many plants, the chemical industry would prefer to ignore the best way to reduce the threat these facilities pose to surrounding communities using safer chemicals and processes wherever possible," said Paul Orum, director of the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know.

U.S. PIRG urged the federal government to require high-hazard chemical plants to review and use safer chemicals and processes wherever possible and to enact strict security standards where safer chemicals are not feasible.

U.S. PIRG also called on the companies examined in the report to immediately review options for reducing hazards at their plants, to set measurable goals and timelines for reducing chemical dangers, and to support mandatory federal security standards requiring all companies to consider changing to safer chemicals and processes.

The text of the complete report is at uspirg.org/uspirg.asp?id2=13532&id3=USPIRG&.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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