‘Patchwork’ Rules on Explosive Fertilizer Agent Put Lives, Towns at Risk

June 28, 2013

Ammonia nitrate, used in manufacturing fertilizer, is a dangerous and highly combustible explosive, as shown by the April explosion that killed 14 people, including 10 firefighters, and leveled the West Fertilizer Co. plant in the town of West, Texas.

But the rules that govern its use and storage—30 tons of it were at West Fertilizer—fall under “a patchwork of U.S. safety standards and guidance—a patchwork that has many large holes,” Rafael Moure-Eraso, chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), told a Senate hearing Thursday.  

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