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Dangerous factory chemicals endangering workers and the public

When a factory explosion occurs, it not only affects the business owners but also the workers, their families, first responders and the residents of the town in which the factory is located. For example, the recent tragic fertilizer plant explosion in Texas not only resulted in factory worker injuries and deaths, but also caused extensive personal property damage to a great many homes in the area.

When first responders were called to the explosion, they were unprepared for the scene at hand in the sense that they had no idea that such a powerful explosive potential existed within the plant. Given that the specific properties of explosive chemicals affect the ways in which first responders must approach their jobs, this information is generally critical when trying to contain fires and explosions safely. While trying to contain tanks of liquid ammonia, responders to the fertilizer plant were greeted with tons of exploding ammonium nitrate.

Had first responders been aware of what hazardous chemicals the plant contained, they might have been able to save more property and remained safer while attempting to do so. In addition, the residents of the town built up around the plant similarly should have been informed about the hazardous contents of the plant.

Unfortunately, security concerns associated with the war on terror make it challenging for the public and even for first responders to remain informed about the hazardous contents of the plants existing in the towns where they work and reside. Yet, in the wake of the Texas explosion, some middle ground will hopefully be struck in order to balance the needs of public and worker safety with the needs to keep hazardous chemicals out of the wrong hands.

Source: The Associated Press, "Hazardous chemicals hidden in plants across U.S.," May 30, 2013

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