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Texas officials issue shelter in place order after chemical plant explosion

Texas authorities issued a shelter-in-place order after a chemical plant explosion. No deaths reported. Explosion in Shepherd, Texas, near Houston.

Texas authorities have issued a shelter-in-place order and advised residents to turn off heating, ventilation, and cooling systems in their homes after a chemical plant explosion on Wednesday. The explosion took place at Sound Resource Solutions, an industrial chemical and raw material distribution company in Shepherd, Texas, a rural town around 60 miles northeast of Houston. There are no deaths being reported from the explosion and only one injury. Polk County Emergency Management said that the plume from the smoke is traveling to the Livingston, Texas, area. The company stores a variety of chemicals, including wood turpentine, phosphoric acid, xylene, diesel fuel, and several others. These chemicals are known to have acute toxicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity, among other risks.

The company president, Geoff Harfield, emphasized that the employees are trained to operate in a hazardous environment and handle the chemicals safely. While the chemicals can be harmful, they are similar to household cleaning solutions. The facility is known for producing herbicides, pesticides, and cleaning products made from an organic compound called cumene. Cumene is known to cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and unconsciousness.

Incidents like this are not isolated, as chemical accidents have been occurring far too frequently over the last decade. The EPA's Risk Management Program (RMP) rule regulates around 12,000 facilities in the United States that use or store highly hazardous chemicals, and is intended to prevent chemical disasters. However, there are an average of 235 incidents every year, with 150 serious incidents on average at RMP facilities. Furthermore, there are many incidents occurring at facilities not covered by the RMP, as well as those involving hazardous materials being transported by rail or highway. This poses a significant risk to workers and communities.

Other chemical incidents have occurred in different parts of the country, such as the derailment of a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals in Ohio, which caused health problems for residents and domestic animals. An explosion also took place at the Nox-Crete facility in Omaha, Nebraska. These incidents highlight the ongoing risks associated with the handling and storage of hazardous chemicals.

It's clear that there is a pressing need for more stringent regulations and oversight to prevent chemical disasters and protect communities from the harmful effects of these incidents. The safety of workers and residents should be a top priority, and proactive measures must be taken to address the risks associated with the storage and transportation of hazardous chemicals.

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