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Table 2 Examples of chemical incidents resulting in regulatory actions

From: A screening tool to prioritize public health risk associated with accidental or deliberate release of chemicals into the atmosphere

Accident location Date Type of event Consequences Actions Ref.
Nypro UK Ltd, Flixborough, UK 1 Jun 1974 Explosion and fire – release of 30 tonnes of cyclohexane resulting in a vapour cloud explosion 28 killed; 89 injured, damage for several km Influenced Seveso 1 content [6, 7, 34]
Led to the UK Health & Safety at Work Act & establishment of UK Health & Safety Executive
Hoffmann LaRoche, Seveso, Italy 10 Jul 1976 Runaway thermal reaction – toxic and corrosive chemical cloud formed, containing phenols, sodium hydroxide, and ~2 kg of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) Over 5,700 residents evacuated; 220,000 people under medical surveillance; 447 cases of skin lesions or chloracne; >3000 animals dead; 80,000 animals slaughtered; affected a 18 sq km area; 20 billion lire paid in compensation Led to Seveso 1 Directive [57]
Union Carbide India Ltd, Bhopal, India 3 Dec 1984 Runaway reaction – 30–40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate released which drifted over a crowded working class neighbourhood; no warning for people within the area surrounding the plant 2,500-6,000 deaths; >200,000 injured; >50,000 survivors experiencing chronic ailments such as pulmonary fibrosis, bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, recurrent chest infections, keratopathy and corneal opacities Led to changes in Seveso I thresholds and proximity to residential populations, influenced land use planning provisions [57, 31, 32]
Led to USA Emergency Planning & Community Right to Know Act & CMA CAER Program
Sandoz, Basel, Switzerland 1 Nov 1986 Warehouse fire – 30 tonnes of chemicals released into air and water (dinitro-ortho-cresol, organochlorines, organophosphates, ~150 kg mercury) Massive contamination of the Rhine, 500,000 fish killed; pollution travelled over 500 km Extended Seveso I to include storage activities [6, 7]
Phillips 66 Co, Pasadena, Texas, USA 23 Oct 1989 Explosion and fire – high density polyethylene production – release of >85,000 lbs of highly flammable process gases 23 deaths; more than 130 injured; over $1 billion in losses Triggered 1990 USA Clean Air Act & Risk Management Program (RMP) & Process Safety Management (PSM) process standards [6, 34]
SE Fireworks, Enschede, The Netherlands 13 May 2000 Explosion and fire – 177 tonnes of fireworks exploded 22 killed; 947 injured; 2000 homes destroyed Led to changes to definition of explosives in Seveso II [57]
Aurul S.A., Baia Mara, Romania 30 Jan 2000 Breach in tailings dam – 100,000 m3 of cyanide rich tailings (cyanide plus heavy metals including copper) released into rivers feeding Danube and Black Sea Contamination of water supply at 24 locations affecting 250,000 people; massive fish kill; destruction of aquatic species; pollution of ~ 200 km of river basin Extended application of Seveso II [6, 7]
Grande Paroisse, Toulouse, France 21 Sep 2001 Explosion and fire – 300–400 tonnes of downgraded ammonium nitrate 30 deaths; 2,242 injured (20 seriously), 5,079 treated for stress; 25,000 homes damaged; 5 schools destroyed; 1,000 factories damaged; toxic chemicals leaked into river Changed application of Seveso II with respect to ammonium nitrate [57]