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One Year after West, Texas: One in Ten Students Attends School in the Shadow of a Risky Facility

by: SaraSmith

Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 10:33 AM CDT

(Thanks to Sara Smith from Texas PIRG for this important guest post. - promoted by Burnt Orange Report)

One year after the fertilizer facility explosion in West, Texas, which destroyed and severely damaged nearby schools, an analysis by the Center for Effective Government finds that nearly one in ten American schoolchildren live and study within one mile of a potentially dangerous chemical facility.

The analysis, displayed through an online interactive map, shows that 4.6 million children at nearly 10,000 schools across the country are within a mile of a facility that reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Risk Management Program. Factories, refineries, and other facilities that report to the program produce, use, and/or store significant quantities of certain hazardous chemicals identified by EPA as particularly risky to human health or the environment if they are spilled, released into the air, or are involved in an explosion or fire.

See how many Texas residents are at risk from toxic chemical disasters after the jump.

"This interactive map, produced by our friends at the Center for Effective Government, shows just how necessary strong policy changes are to the safety of our communities, particularly in Texas, where roughly 13 million residents are at risk from toxic chemical disasters. Last August, President Obama issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to modernize "key policies, regulations, and standards..." We're hoping that the EPA, DHS and OSHA propose regulations that make tragedies like the West explosion a thing of the past," said Sara Smith, Advocate for the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG).

The analysis found that Texas, California and Illinois have the largest numbers of children at risk from dangerous chemicals.

Sean Moulton, director of open government policy at the Center for Effective Government, noted, "In the year since the West, Texas disaster, we've seen workers killed, drinking water poisoned, and entire towns evacuated. In state after state, town after town, people have been hurt or worse because of inadequate oversight, aging public and private infrastructure, and chemical industry battles against stronger standards and safeguards."

To make children safer in communities across the country, TexPIRG and more than 100 other groups have called for stronger chemical information disclosure standards, better reporting to oversight agencies like the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security, and more robust emergency response plans that are vetted with surrounding communities. But most importantly, the federal government must require that all facilities switch to inherently safer chemicals and processes whenever possible.

The new interactive map, from which this information was derived, is available online here. Visitors can zoom in to a particular local area to see if their children's schools are located near a chemical plant or storage facility. Users can also search the map by school name or facility name.

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