Chemical industry still learning from Bhopal – German agency

02 December 2009 17:19  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS news)--Even 25 years after the Union Carbide chemical plant catastrophe in Bhopal, India, the global chemical industry needs to continue learning its lessons, the head of Germany’s federal environmental agency Umweltbundesamt (UBA) said on Wednesday.

“The price of a catastrophe like Bhopal is so high that we just cannot afford to forget its lessons,” said UBA president Jochen Flasbarth, in marking the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst chemical plant accident.

“In Germany and in Europe, too, we need to make sure that we constantly do our best to ensure the safety of chemical plants and sites,” he said.

Bhopal led to huge improvements in chemical plant security and safety worldwide, as well as numerous new national and international chemical safety laws, right up to the EU's Reach regulation, UBA said.

Nevertheless, there was still room for further improvement, it said. Many dangerous chemicals could be phased out, or their use and storage could be minimised.

In land planning and plant permitting, further steps needed to be taken to ensure that chemical accidents involving dangerous substances did not impact residential neighbourhoods, UBA said.

Also, producers and authorities needed to work harder to ensure they had enough trained personnel to supervise and maintain plants, the agency said.

UBA also said that chemical producers in developed industrial countries, including German firms, needed to always ensure that their plants in less developed countries met European and North American safety standards.

While the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) had worked out guidelines to ensure this, it had yet to be determined if producers actually followed those guidelines, the agency said.

Lower chemical safety standards in some jurisdiction could not be allowed to translate into a competitive advantage, it added.

To discuss issues facing the chemical industry go to ICIS connect

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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