4. Where does Chemical Emergency occur?

The production and use of chemicals are fundamental factors in the economic development of all countries, whether they are industrialised or developing countries. In one way or another, chemicals directly or indirectly affect all humans and are essential to our food production and consumption (eg fertilisers, pesticides, food additives, packing), our healthcare (eg pharmaceuticals, cleaning materials) or our well-being (eg appliances, fuels). Chemicals have become a part of our life, sustaining many of our activities, preventing and controlling many diseases and increasing agricultural productivity.
It is not just the worker handling chemicals who is at risk. We may be exposed in our homes through misuse or by accidents or be contaminated via consumer products such as food.

Most chemical accidents are limited in their impact but some of them have been on the scale of disasters:

  • the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal (India) with thousands of deaths and many people permanently disabled (http://www.bhopal.com);
  • the 2000 explosions at the Fireworks S.E. company which stored and assembled fireworks in the city of Enschede (Netherlands) caused the death of 22 people and injured almost 1,000 more. The incident caused extensive damage to a large area immediately surrounding the factory, including a residential area and also the Grolsch brewery (containing a large ammonia refrigeration system);
  • the 2001 AZF fertilizer plant accident in Toulouse (France) in which the explosion of 300 tons of ammonium nitrate resulted in 30 deaths and around 10,000 injuries.