The Volatile Issue of Reactive Chemicals

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Regulation of “reactive” chemicals -- chemicals that become unstable under certain conditions -- has been the subject of debate for years. Underlying the debate, and perhaps fueling it, is the fact that reactive chemicals are involved in many accidents.

According to the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s (CSB’s) 2002 report addressing reactive chemicals, entitled “Hazard Investigation: Improving Reactive Hazard Management” (referred to here as the “CSB Reactives Report”),1 there have been 167 serious reactive chemical accidents over the past two decades, and 108 people were killed in 48 of the incidents.

Just about everyone agrees that reactive chemicals are a major problem which must be addressed. How best to address the problem has eluded consensus, however. This “Washington Watch” column outlines the key issues in the debate and provides a forecast for the foreseeable future.

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