By Marcia Oursler, Petrochemical Accident Researcher
Listening Session Public Comment
Executive Order #13650: Improving Chemical Safety and Security
My name is Marcia Oursler and I have been with Louisiana Bucket Brigade since August 2013.
While many community members are aware of the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), some facilities within the state of Louisiana do not list up to date information. When visiting the TRI website on a specific plant, the most recent year listed includes 2012, while we live in the year 2014. Less than one month ago, community members in Shreveport became aware of chemicals in their air not from nearby industry communications, or a government website, but from a bucket analysis. If it had not been for this bucket analysis, community members would not have been aware of these chemicals in their air. Individuals have the right to know what chemicals are being pumped into the air they breathe at work and in their communities.
The bucket sample of which I am referring contained benzene, hydrogen sulfide, 2-butanone (also referred to as methyl ethyl ketone or MEK), chlorobenzene, n-hexane, propene, and toluene. Benzene is an IARC group 1 carcinogen. MEK and toluene both represent respiratory toxicants. Hydrogen sulfide has been linked to exacerbate asthma attacks in addition to other respiratory diseases among residents in close proximity to emissions sources. While requiring additional more thorough fenceline monitoring is necessary, public disclosure is also needed beyond when a permit limit or reportable quantity is exceeded. The communities have the right to know what chemicals fill the air of what is in their backyard before accidents occur.
I urge OSHA to enhance information sharing. I urge OSHA to find additional ways to work with stakeholders to identify best practices. I also urge OSHA to adopt EPA’s policy for Risk Management Plan (RMP)-listed substances. The federal government now has an opportunity to implement the precautionary principle. Chemicals should only be used if proven to be safe to human health. Various chemicals are used regularly in our state of Louisiana. Many of these chemicals impact the health of vulnerable populations, especially in the form of respiratory effects. I suggest that risk management plans be adjusted to include a more thorough list of chemicals for the benefit and welfare of both industry and surrounding communities. In a world where synergistic relationships are not unheard of for varying substances, it is increasingly important for disclosure to be in the public knowledge.
I sincerely thank you all for your time and for your attention,