We can keep our children safer without shutting down production or losing jobs.
We have strong rules to ensure air and water quality, but we have failed to establish similar protections to reduce the risk of chemical accidents.
The risk chemical facilities pose is just as real a danger and should be similarly regulated.
Fortunately, companies, legislatures, and agencies can take steps to reduce the size of vulnerability zones and ensure that children and schools are beyond their boundaries.
Three Easy Steps Facilities Can Take
Require companies to use safer chemical alternatives when they are available. Many are already doing so. Bleach manufacturing and water and wastewater treatment plants represent over 60 percent of the facilities in our study. Chlorine is the most common toxic chemical they use. There are cost-effective alternatives to chlorine gas, and several companies began shifting away from the use of it years ago.
Facilities can reduce the amount of toxins produced or stored onsite. They could do this by producing and shipping their products in smaller batches instead of accumulating large quantities near major population centers.
New facilities with dangerous chemicals should not be sited near major population centers or probable growth areas around metropolitan areas.
What You Can Do
Educate people in your school district, community, and state about the risks of chemical disasters.
- Share this report and the interactive map with your friends, relatives, and neighbors so they can see the risks to their own schools and communities.
- Talk to your PTA or PTO – encourage teachers to use our curriculum to explore the issue of chemical risk and ways everyday citizens can make their communities safer.
- Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Personalize our sample.
Advocate for policy changes on the local, state, and federal levels.
- Ask your city council representative to pass a resolution supporting the shift to safer chemical alternatives.
- Ask your state representatives to require the use of safer chemicals at facilities located near you.
- Contact your state’s environmental agency and ask staff to hold a hearing and/or to send a comment to the federal EPA about reducing risks in your community.
- Tell Congress to support new requirements to shift to safer chemical alternatives.
- Register to vote and encourage candidates to support improved safety and better protections for children.
Encourage the individual companies that put your schools at risk to voluntarily shift to safer alternatives and to reduce their “vulnerability footprint” by reducing the amount of dangerous chemicals they produce and store at a facility near you.
- Our interactive risk map allows you to find the name of the company at the center of each vulnerability zone, its address, and the amount of chemicals it stores. This should give you enough information to contact the facility and arrange a meeting.
Prepare school staff and children should a chemical event occur.
- Each facility in this report is supposed to have a Risk Management Plan on record with the first responders and emergency management officials in your community. Ask your local first responders to come to the schools in your area and conduct a drill or to talk to your PTA and explain emergency procedures so everyone knows the plan in the event of a disaster. Eastern Kentucky University has produced a guide for developing an emergency action plan for schools that includes a wide variety of emergencies, including hazardous material releases.