Dow Chemical pipeline leak forces evacuation

Environmental Issues

Oct 30-An underground pipeline carrying Tolune Di-isocyante ( a highly toxic intermediate coomonly known by the acronym TDI and which is used in manufacturing polyurethanes) in a Dow facility in Freeport, Tx leaked heavily, prompting the evacuation of more than 75 families staying in the area. As of the now the leak has stopped but the the evacuated families cannot return to their homes, at least until Sunday, according to reports, to ensure that there is no danger to them if the chemical leaks again during repair.

Dow is reportedly footing the hotel expenses of the evacuated people. However, other residents of Freeport are questioning the delay in response to the leak.  The pipeline leak was apparently reported on Sunday, 25 Oct but real work to repair it started only on Monday, 26th Oct.

Though underground pipelines are a safer way to transport hazardous chemicals (as compared to say, tank trucks or railroad cars), the fact remains that small leaks can remain undetected for long times and pollute the surroundings. It is not known if there are mandatory inspections of such buried pipelines every few years (and if they are whether they are really done). If anybody can answer these questions, please post it in the comments section.

BTW there were some reports saying that the residents were not really in danger and the evacuation was “precautionary” in nature. However this cannot be true as TDI is a known toxic chemical, the properties of which are lised on the EPA website as below

From http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/toluene2.html

2,4-Toluene diisocyanate is primarily used as a chemical intermediate in the production of polyurenthane products.  2,4-Toluene diisocyanate is extremely toxic from acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposures.  Acute exposure to high levels of 2,4-toluene diisocyanate in humans, via inhalation, results in severe irritation of the skin and eyes and affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems (CNS).  Chronic inhalation exposure to 2,4-toluene diisocyanate in humans has resulted in significant decreases in lung function in workers, an asthma-like reaction characterized by wheezing, dyspnea, and bronchial constriction.  Animal studies have reported significantly increased incidences of tumors of the pancreas, liver, and mammary glands from exposure to 2,4-toluene diisocyanate via gavage (experimentally placing the chemical in the stomach).  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified 2,4-toluene diisocyanate as a Group 2B, possible human carcinogen.