Analysis of hazardous material releases due to natural hazards in the United States

Hatice Sengul, Nicholas Santella, Laura J Steinberg, Ana Maria Cruz
Disasters 2012, 36 (4): 723-43
Natural hazards were the cause of approximately 16,600 hazardous material (hazmat) releases reported to the National Response Center (NRC) between 1990 and 2008-three per cent of all reported hazmat releases. Rain-induced releases were most numerous (26 per cent of the total), followed by those associated with hurricanes (20 per cent), many of which resulted from major episodes in 2005 and 2008. Winds, storms or other weather-related phenomena were responsible for another 25 per cent of hazmat releases. Large releases were most frequently due to major natural disasters. For instance, hurricane-induced releases of petroleum from storage tanks account for a large fraction of the total volume of petroleum released during 'natechs' (understood here as a natural hazard and the hazardous materials release that results). Among the most commonly released chemicals were nitrogen oxides, benzene, and polychlorinated biphenyls. Three deaths, 52 injuries, and the evacuation of at least 5,000 persons were recorded as a consequence of natech events. Overall, results suggest that the number of natechs increased over the study period (1990-2008) with potential for serious human and environmental impacts.

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