China’s Environment Authorities To Screen Chemical Hazards Following Explosion

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On Aug 12, two blasts ripped through a warehouse in Tianjin Port, where large amounts of toxic chemicals were stored, including around 700 tonnes of sodium cyanide. Death toll from the blasts exceed 160.

Thousands of dead fish washed up on a riverbank near the site of the explosions last week. White foam filled the streets during the first rain shower after the blasts. Residents and relatives of those killed have taken to the streets in protest, demanding to know how a hazardous storage site could be so close to their homes.

The sodium cyanide stored at the warehouse originated from a factory 200 miles west of Tianjin. Chinese news media reported a foul smell in the air near the factory, and residents said they had found white foam in the groundwater. Some complained of headaches.

The company, Hebei Chengxin, is one of the largest makers of the toxic substance in Asia. Its sprawling facility is close to a primary school with up to 700 students and staff members. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

As a result, the Ministry of Environmental Protection has announced that China will launch an environment safety inspection over industries involving chemicals and other dangerous substances.

Vice Minister Pan Yue said the inspection from late Oct to early Nov will cover ports and industries such as petrochemical, chemical, and nonferrous metal industries in 16 provincial localities.

Inspectors will look into whether chemical industry parks and ports have undergone environment assessment, and whether new environmental hazards emerge.

Inspectors will also examine the management and disposal of dangerous waste.