Railroads Call For Elimination Of Some Toxic Chemicals | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: March 7, 2008

Railroads Call For Elimination Of Some Toxic Chemicals

Chemical industry says freight carriers are taking an 'irresponsible' position on safety and security
Department: Government & Policy
Credit: Association of American Railroads
Credit: Association of American Railroads

The freight railroad industry is calling on chemical manufacturers to voluntarily stop producing highly toxic chemicals when safer substitutes exist, arguing that the risk of transporting chlorine and other extremely hazardous substances is too great.

"We can no longer continue to risk the lives of millions of Americans by using, transporting, and storing highly toxic chemicals when there are safer alternatives commercially available," says Edward R. Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

"It is time for the nation's big chemical companies to stop making the dangerous chemicals that can be replaced by safer substitutes or new technologies currently in the marketplace," Hamberger declares.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents 134 of the nation's largest chemical manufacturers, says the railroad industry is taking an irresponsible position on safety and security.

"This raises several serious questions, including which of the thousands of products made from chemicals, and the jobs of Americans who make these products, does AAR wish to eliminate from U.S. commerce," asks Jack N. Gerard, president and chief executive officer of ACC.

Gerard estimates that more than 96% of all goods manufactured in the U.S. have some chemical component. "These chemicals are used to produce lifesaving medications and medical devices, body armor used by our military and law enforcement officers, deicing fluids for airplanes, energy-saving solar panels, and so much more," he says.

AAR's call for the elimination of certain chemicals comes as Congress is considering legislation to further enhance security at chemical plants. Provisions in a bill passed by the House Homeland Security Committee on March 6 would require companies operating "high risk" facilities to adopt inherently safer technologies, such as replacing toxic chemicals with less hazardous alternatives, in an effort to make plant sites in densely populated areas less attractive to terrorists.

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