Unravelling The Mysterious Connection Between the Recent Chemical Spills
- 01-May-2023 2:55 PM
- Journalist: Harold Finch
US: Recent high-profile chemical spills in various parts of the US have been linked to a common source. The Trinseo latex plant, located 20 miles from Philadelphia, recently released over 8,100 gallons of acrylic polymers into a tributary for the Delaware River on March 24. These polymers, consisting of Butyl acrylate, Ethyl Acrylate, and Methyl Methacrylate, were produced from fossil fuels. This has put residents on high alert, as they fear the potential impact of these compounds on the environment.
In the past month, East Palestine, Ohio, witnessed a train derailment carrying highly explosive and hazardous materials, including Butyl Acrylate and Vinyl Chloride — both derived from oil. The incident occurred on March 28, when 10 barges broke loose in the Ohio River in Kentucky, one barge carrying 1,400 metric tons of Methanol produced from either oil or gas.
According to our sources, the US experienced chemical accidents every other day in 2023, averaging to one accident every two days. Moreover, each year, an average of 202 unplanned chemical releases occurs in various facilities across the country.
Water quality faces a significant threat due to widespread chemical exposure in the US. The impact is more evident in drinking water quality, where direct chemical exposure from facilities, like what occurred in Philadelphia, can occur. Chemical exposure from various products is also a major concern.
While these incidents are typically categorized as chemical spills, it is crucial to be more specific. The compounds responsible for such contamination, commonly known as petrochemicals, are omnipresent today. They are utilized in manufacturing plastic for products such as cosmetics, clothing, packaging, detergents, among others. For instance, the Trinseo plant situated close to Philadelphia produced paint using these compounds.
Plastics and petrochemicals have found their way into almost everything for a reason: they are affordable and versatile. The industry has perfected the process of converting fossil fuels into various materials that are light in weight and flexible, allowing for their use in a wide range of products. From medical equipment and clothing to lip balm, nail polish and disposable coffee cups, plastic and petrochemicals make it possible.
While these chemicals can be produced and transported safely on paper, the adaptability comes with a cost. The sheer number of accidents recorded in 2022 resulting in injury, accidents, or even death while in transit shows how often safe transportation is not achieved. It is evident that every step of the way poses significant risk.
The petrochemical production industry in the US is currently experiencing a boom, which stems from the larger surge in US oil and gas supply. However, this growth comes at a cost as more communities are being exposed to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. These chemicals can have harmful effects on both humans and animals, and scientists are still trying to fully comprehend the extent of these effects. It's not just train derailments that put people at risk of exposure to petrochemicals; these hazardous substances can also be encountered in more mundane ways. Overall, the risks associated with petrochemical production are not going away anytime soon.