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Winter Journal

Volume 32, Issue 4

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Thursday, 07 April 2016 05:00

Lessons from Tianjin

Written by  Chuck Haling

Perhaps no industrial accident in recent memory has had such an impact on public awareness of chemical safety as the explosions at the Port of Tianjin that killed more than 170 people last year. The largest of the blasts was the equivalent of more than 21 tons of TNT and involved sodium cyanide, toluene diisocyanate, and calcium carbide. Within hours, dramatic Internet video of the catastrophe circulated around the world. In the minds of many observers, in addition to raising concern for those in harm’s way, the explosion also created questions about chemical safety in the region. The warehouse where the blasts originated was owned by Ruihai Logistics, a company specializing in shipping and handling hazardous chemicals. The inciting event that touched off the blast is still not known, and may never be. However, it’s clear that several problematic factors made the challenge of controlling the blasts and their aftermath more difficult.