Is Poor Safety Data a Bigger Threat Than Terrorists?
A Dallas Morning News investigation published August 24, 2013, found that nine times out of ten, government information about chemical safety was wrong or missing.
Since 9/11, agencies like the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation have rushed to hide formerly public information about their safety performance. They have justified this by claiming the information would be useful to terrorists. But given the government's accuracy record, it almost seems as if releasing it to terrorists would blind and confuse them, rendering them nearly powerless 90 percent of the time. Sadly, that same bad information (or lack of it) is what first responders depend on to save their own lives and the communities they serve.
So it was in West, Texas, where an April 2013 fertilizer explosion killed 15 people, most of them firefighters who did not understand the threat they faced.
The Dallas News' story of bad chemical-safety data is a story of government's incompetence at keeping the public safe. It demonstrates that secrecy — rather than protecting the public from terrorists — merely protects the government and the corporations from the public.
You can use the four databases used by the Dallas News to find chemical safety stories in your own community — even if the databases are wrong nine times out of ten.
- "After West Disaster, News Study Finds U.S. Chemical Safety Data Wrong About 90 Percent," Dallas Morning News, August 24, 2013, by Jon McClure, Daniel Lathrop, and Matt Jacob.
- "Report: Data on Chemical Accidents Incomplete," Associated Press, August 25, 2013.
- "Fixing Chemical Security after West, Texas," Center for Effective Government, August 8, 2013, by Sean Moulton.
- "New Analysis and Interactive Map Illustrate Dangers of Freight Trains Carrying Toxic Chemicals," Center for Effective Government, August 8, 2013.
- "Obama Orders Review of Chemical Plant Safety Rules," USA TODAY, August 1, 2013, by David Jackson.
- Previous Stories: SEJ WatchDogs and EJToday Headlines of April 24, 2013; April 17, 2013; and May 8, 2013.