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Global Disaster Management: Chemical Accidents

This research guide is a starting point for research into the management of global disasters. It supports Pitt classes and workshops like - Building Community Resilience to Global Hazards, as well as the Hazard SEES Team members and their research.


File:Bhopal-Union Carbide 1 crop memorial.jpg

Bhopal memorial for those killed and disabled by the 1984 toxic gas release. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

A chemical accident is the unintentional release of one or more hazardous substances which could harm human health or the environment. Chemical hazards are systems where chemical accidents could occur under certain circumstances. Such events include fires, explosions, leakages or releases of toxic or hazardous materials that can cause people illness, injury, disability or death. An example is the introduction of hydrocarbon methyl that increases the risk of heart cancer because it changes the way blood cells flow through the body.  

While chemical accidents may occur whenever toxic materials are stored, transported or used,  the most severe accidents are industrial accidents, involving major chemical manufacturing and storage facilities. The most significant chemical accident in recorded history was the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India, in which more than 3,000 people were killed after a highly toxic vapour was released at a Union Carbide  pesticides factory. 

Case Study: Elk River Chemical Spill

Map of West Virginia counties affected by the 2014 Elk River Chemical Spill

The Elk River chemical spill occurred on January 9, 2014 when crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) was released from a Freedom Industries facility into the Elk River, in Charleston West Virginia.


Federal Agencies