SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China had 232 chemical-related accidents from January to August this year, causing 199 deaths and 400 injuries, according to research from the environmental group Greenpeace published on Wednesday.
Greenpeace said China needs to “radically overhaul” the way it manages its chemical industry, which is now “appallingly under-regulated”.
“The government must take urgent action to manage chemicals in a sound manner, provide a safety net for workers and citizens, and protect ecologically important areas across the country,” said Cheng Qian, a campaigner with the group.
According to publicly available data from 2010-11, the majority of China’s 33,625 chemical facilities are located in densely populated eastern coastal regions, Greenpeace said, adding that more transparency was needed to provide a more accurate picture of the industry.
China has struggled to enforce its rules on acquiring, producing, storing and disposing of dangerous chemicals, and experts have complained that rules published at the end of 2011 are inadequate and need to be tightened significantly.
Last year, 165 people were killed following a series of explosions in a chemical warehouse in the northern city of Tianjin. The government said hazardous materials had been stored illegally at the site.
China detained 49 people in connection with the blasts, including port and work safety officials, saying that laws and regulations had been flouted. The firm involved, Tianjin Ruihai International Logistics, was also accused of handling dangerous chemicals without a licence.
Four workers were also killed in an explosion at a facility run by the Wanhua Chemical Group on Wednesday.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry)