"U.S. chemical plants currently have potentially catastrophic vulnerabilities as terrorist targets. The possible consequences of these vulnerabilities echo from the tragedies of the Bhopal incident in 1984 to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 and, most recently, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Findings from a 2004 nationwide participatory research study of 125 local union leaders at sites with very large volumes of highly hazardous chemicals suggest that voluntary efforts to achieve chemical plant security are not succeeding. Study respondents reported that companies had only infrequently taken actions that are most effective in preventing or in preparing to respond to a terrorist threat. In addition, companies reportedly often failed to involve key stakeholders, including workers, local unions, and the surrounding communities, in these efforts. The environmental health community thus has an opportunity to play a key role in advocating for and supporting improvements in prevention of and preparation for terrorist attacks. Policy-level recommendations to redress chemical site vulnerabilities and the related ongoing threats to the nation's security are as follows: a) specify detailed requirements for chemical site assessment and security; b) mandate audit inspections supported by significant penalties for cases of noncompliance; c) require progress toward achieving inherently safer processes, including the minimizing of storage of highly hazardous chemicals; d) examine and require additional effective actions in prevention, emergency preparedness, and response and remediation; e) mandate and fund the upgrading of emergency communication systems; and f) involve workers and community members in plan creation and equip and prepare them to prevent and respond effectively to an incident."
Environmental Health Perspectives: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/
Environmental Health Perspectives (September 2006), v.114, n.9