CSB Chair Carolyn Merritt Commends New Jersey Officials On Reactive Hazards Safety Action

August 12, 2003
Washington, DC, Aug. 12, 2003 --U.S. Chemical Safety Board Chair Carolyn Merritt today commended the recent action by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection which adds reactive chemicals to the list of "extraordinarily hazardous substances" that trigger the risk management planning requirements of New Jersey's Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act. The action is designed to provide greater protection for residents living near industrial facilities.

Chairman Merritt said, "The CSB is very concerned about reactive hazards. I am happy to see this kind of life-saving action being taken in New Jersey and commend New Jersey officials. We would like to see action taken on a federal level as well in the interest of protecting workers and residents who live near chemical plants." Following an extensive, two-year study of reactive hazards in the chemical industry, the 5-member CSB Board last fall approved recommendations to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the need for additional regulation of reactive hazards. The CSB study identified 167 reactive incidents which caused 108 deaths over a twenty year period. Dr. Gerald Poje, on behalf of the CSB, earlier this year had urged New Jersey officials to take action.

Chemical products often are made through the process of chemical reactions. However, when chemicals are improperly mixed or improperly exposed to heat, pressure or incompatible substances, they can explode and cause death and destruction of property. "We have found a need for plant management to study potential reactive hazards before they make changes to their processes because accidents occur when inadequate safety and control measures are in place," Chairman Merritt said.

New Jersey announced it would require companies handling reactive chemicals to prepare accidental release prevention plans and examine safer technologies to prevent industrial incidents like the tragic ones that occurred at Napp Technologies in Lodi in 1995 and at Morton International in Paterson in 1998. Both explosions were the result of the improper mixing of certain chemicals.

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