Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Chemical Plant Explosion few miles from UIUC

Last Friday night a chemical plant producing PVC exploited in Illiopolis, a town a few miles from UIUC. The press stated that as a precautionary measure, the population of the surrounding area was to be evacuated. The reported consequences of this incident were that four workers were killed, and eight were hurt. I wonder if this explosion will motivate further investigation about other possible long-term victims of the production of polyvinyl chloride, as it happened after the death of 4 workers in a Goodrich plant in 1974. In that year, the relations between problems with cancer and the production of vinyl chloride were exposed to public opinion.
As far as I have seen, news reports about Illiopolis case are focused on the investigations about the possible reasons of the explosion, number of deaths and lost jobs.

The explosion of this chemical plant also makes me think about the ambivalence of the perception of risk in this society. How is risk erased in a way that allows people to fearlessly (if it is true) live next to a chemical plant, but also constructed in ways that manifest themselves in people’s fear of the other and others’ ethnicities and political ideas. However, is it the case that people’s fear of chemical producers in their backyards can be silenced? Fear that nourishes wars overseas and local surveillance, as well as confidences built to allow industries to operate with carcinogens next door.

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