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How safe are our nation's chemical plants?

Chicago has been a major industrial hub of the Midwest since the 19th century. Industries have come and gone, yet the city on the shores of Lake Michigan remains a stalwart manufacturing center for the nation.

But with all of the industries in and around Chicago, could there be some potentially dangerous chemical plants located close to residential neighborhoods? Unfortunately, while that is highly likely, it is also difficult to determine.

The reason why basic information about the locations of stores of hazardous chemicals in the United States are mostly unavailable has to do with national security interests in our post-9/11 world. But in the wake of the deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, in 2013 where 15 people died and hundreds were injured, how can residents be assured of their safety should disaster strike?

The Environmental Protection Agency determined that millions of United States residents live in dangerous proximity to sites that in hazardous conditions like chemical spills, leaks or fires could place them in harm's way. The EPA monitors approximately 12,000 facilities storing at least one of 140 flammable or toxic chemicals that pose potential hazards to surrounding communities.

A 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service indicated that over 2,500 of these locations have worst-case scenarios that could adversely affect as many as a million residents. In another 4,400 cases, the same doomsday scenarios could impact as many as 9,999 individuals.

While those situations would be very bad news for the resident of northern Illinois, for workers inside of these plants, the dangers are present on every shift. If you lost a loved one due to a chemical plant disaster, you have rights you may wish to exercise in order to pursue financial compensation for your losses.

Source: Mother Jones, "Map: Is There a Risky Chemical Plant Near You?," Jaeah Lee, accessed Sep. 02, 2016

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