The U.S. experiences several serious chemical release incidents each week. Yet no national law requires industrial facilities to seek safer alternatives to even the most dangerous chemicals. Every day, millions of people live and work in the shadow of 12,440 high-risk facilities that store and use highly hazardous chemicals with the potential to kill or injure thousands of workers and community residents. Eighty-nine of these facilities put more than one million people at risk.
The people who live in communities surrounding these facilities are at greater risk than anyone except the workers in the plant in the event of an explosion or catastrophic release of a poison gas. Residents of chemical facility “vulnerability zones” are disproportionately 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.
The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform is a key partner in the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters — a collaboration of health, labor, environmental justice, and public interest organizations who are calling on the Obama Administration to protect communities by requiring chemical facilities to use safer chemicals and processes where available and affordable.
In 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order launching a multi-agency effort to develop policies and actions to protect the public and workers from chemical disasters.