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Website shows risks to children from oil and chemical industries

It should come as no surprise to Texas residents that the oil boom has resulted in numerous accidents and toxic emissions that have injured or killed workers and residents. One website, Earthjustice.org, tracks oil and gas production throughout the United States along with other issues that impact air, water and health. The site, with its associated blog, reports on oil and gas accidents and other industrial events that raise health and safety issues for workers and people living near industrial, oil drilling and chemical sites.

A few months ago (October 6, 2014), a blog post on the site reported on thedanger to school children because of some schools’ proximity to oil fields and other chemical and industrial sites. There are 149 oil refineries operating in the United States, according to the post. They and the associated industrial plants produce a variety of emissions and pollutants that can affect air and water quality. A shocking number of these facilities are near schools. By some estimates, one in three school children in the U.S. are close enough to such facilities to put them in danger.

The post included a map created by the Center for Effective Government that showed the number of industrial, chemical and energy sites close to schools. In Texas, for example, the map provides data about the Champion Technologies plant in Fresno, Texas, that produces organic chemicals used in the oil and gas industry. The map provides a link to very detailed information about the safety planning and track record of this and thousands of other sites in Texas.

The map also reports the number of schools and students in the danger zone of each site. For example, the Champion Technologies plant in Fresno has the potential to affect 612 schools and 366,033 students. Another Texas example, the Occidental Chemical Corporation’s Ingleside plant near Corpus Christi is a wholly owned subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum and produces chemicals such as chlorine, caustic soda, ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). The plant uses regulated and highly toxic chemicals that include ethylene oxide and anhydrous ammonia. There are 146 schools in what the map calls the “Vulnerability Zone” that around 71, 570 students attend.

Earthjustice is a non-profit based in California that partners with community groups in Texas, Louisiana and California. The group lobbies the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen its limitations on toxic air pollution and other hazards from oil refineries and related chemical plants in those states.

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