About Chemical Hazards
What Is a Chemical Hazard?
A chemical hazard is any substance that can cause harm, primarily to people. Chemicals of all kinds are stored in our homes and can result in serious injuries if not properly handled. Household items such as bleach can result in harmful chlorine gas or hydrochloric acid if carelessly used. Gasoline fumes from containers for lawnmowers or boats can result in major health hazards if inhaled.
DOE Oak Ridge uses thousands of chemicals in its varied research and other operations. New chemicals are or can be created as a result of the research or other activities. DOE follows national safety requirements in storing and handling these chemicals to minimize the risk of injuries from its chemical usage. However, accidents can occur despite careful attention to proper handling and storage procedures.
Types of Chemicals Used at the Oak Ridge Facilities
• Cyanide compounds
• Hydrogen Chloride
• Hydrogen Fluoride
• Lithium compounds
• Methylene Chloride
A federal law called the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act gives you the right to know about toxic chemicals being released into the environment. The Toxics Release Inventory maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides information about the types and amounts of toxic chemicals that are released each year to the air, water, and land as well as information on the quantities of toxic chemicals sent to other facilities for further waste management.
Data for Department of Energy facilities in Oak Ridge is included in this Inventory. You can view this information at the Web site www.epa.gov/tri. By entering the Oak Ridge zip code "37831" at the prompt, you can view information on the types of chemicals used at the DOE facilities.
Chemical Emergency in Oak Ridge
DOE Oak Ridge has dozens of facilities engaged in chemical operations. Most operations involve such small quantities of chemicals that an accident poses little threat to people. However, DOE also has some larger chemical operations and, in some locations, larger amounts of stored chemicals where workers and the public can be impacted by accidents.
While accidents are possible, DOE believes the risk of exposure to its workers is low due to the safety precautions followed throughout the DOE Oak Ridge Reservation. The risk to the public from harmful chemicals being released outside of the DOE property areas is even lower. In the event of a chemical release with the potential for off-site impacts, the sirens will sound and a message will be broadcast on the Emergency Alert System.
However, as a matter of simple prudence and for compliance with Federal government safety requirements, DOE has prepared emergency response plans for accidents that could occur. DOE and its contractors maintain an experienced group of emergency response personnel trained to respond to chemical accidents.