25th anniversary: Bhopal chemical accident

On December 3, 1984, residents of Bhopal India woke in their homes to fits of coughing, their lungs filling with fluid when more than 40 tons of methyl isocyante (MIC) gas created a dense cloud over a  population of more than half a million people following a chemical gas spill from a pesticide factory.  More than 8,000 people were killed in just the first 3 days following the spill, mainly from cardiac and respiratory arrest. In total, 20,000 people lost their lives.  Today, their survivors are still living with the aftermath.
One hundred ten million Americans live in the shadow of catastrophic poison gas release from one of 300 chemical facilities.   Across the U.S., thousands of chemical facilities that use and store large quantities of high hazard chemicals—chlorine or sulfur dioxide gas, hydrofluoric acid, and anhydrous ammonia are the most common and the most dangerous—put thousands of people in the surrounding communities at risk in the event of an accident or attack.
Safer more secure chemical processes already exist that can replace virtually all of these hazards.  More than 280 U.S. chemical facilities—from drinking water treatment plants to oil refineries—are already using safer chemicals or processes, proving that we don’t have to put communities at unnecessary risk.
By a vote of 230-193, the House of Representatives passed the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2868), which will require thousands of facilities where a toxic release endangers the surrounding community to assess their ability to “reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack” by switching to safer alternative chemicals or processes, and in the case of the most dangerous facilities, allows the government to require them to actually implement those safer technologies. 
Even in a beautiful and seemingly pristine place like Vermont, toxic chemicals are building up in our bodies and in our environment.  Of the more than 80,000 chemicals used in commerce in the U.S., few have ever been adequately tested for their potential impact on our health.  Many of these chemicals are commonly found in our air, water, soil – even in the products we buy and use every day.  Some have been linked to significant health effects including cancer, neurological damage and developmental disabilities, and children are generally at greatest risk of harm.

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