A recent article in The Guardian details an analysis of hazardous chemical accidents that occur at an alarming frequency in the United States, exposing people to toxic substances through fires, explosions, leaks, spills and other releases. The report by Coming Clean, in conjunction with a network of environmental and economic justice organizations in the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters, highlights an average of nearly one hazardous chemical incident every 1.2 days from January 2021 to October 2023, totaling 829 incidents. These incidents are often linked to the fossil fuel industry, affecting communities and workers throughout the chemical supply chain.
The majority of incidents originate from the production, transport and disposal of fossil fuels and fossil fuel products. Texas, home to numerous facilities, experiences the highest number of incidents. Notably, these accidents have led to 43 deaths, numerous injuries, hospitalizations and evacuations in almost 200 communities. (See: "Toxic Chemical Cleanup Continues After Train Derailment," "Truck Spills 20,000 Pounds of Contaminated Soil from East Palestine Site," "Could New Chemistries, Retooled Production Strategies Prevent the Next East Palestine Spill?")
These findings coincide with forthcoming U.S. regulatory changes aimed at preventing chemical disasters. The EPA plans to release final rules in December that will enhance emergency preparedness, increase public access to information about hazardous chemical risks and introduce new accident prevention requirements. The regulations are expected to consider the risks associated with climate change-induced extreme weather events like floods and hurricanes. Despite the urgency to address these issues, powerful industry groups have historically made it challenging to implement effective regulation in the chemical industry.