Chemical Threats

Chemical threats come from the accidental or intentional release of toxic vapors, gases, aerosols, liquids, and solids that are harmful to people, animals, or plants. They can be released by bombs or sprayed from aircraft, boats, and vehicles. They can be used as a liquid to create a hazard to people and the environment. They can escape from leaks in pipelines, tanker trucks or railroad cars, or storage containers. Some chemicals may be odorless and tasteless. They can have an immediate effect (a few seconds to a few minutes) or a delayed effect (2 to 48 hours). In some chemical incidents, the chemicals disperse quickly; in others, the chemicals may leave a residue.

A chemical incident could occur without warning. Signs of a chemical incident include people having difficulty breathing; experiencing eye irritation; losing coordination; becoming nauseated; or having a burning sensation in the nose, throat, and lungs. Also, the presence of many dead insects or birds may indicate a chemical agent release.

These Web sites give you some information about preventing, preparing for, and responding to chemical incidents:

Note: The following links are provided as a resource only. The content provided was not prepared by the Pittsburgh Regional Business Coalition for Homeland Security (PRBCHS), and is not necessarily endorsed by PRBCHS.


Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS)

The CCPS is a not-for-profit, corporate membership organization within the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) that identifies and addresses process safety needs within the chemical, pharmaceutical, and petroleum industries. CCPS brings together manufacturers, government agencies, consultants, academia and insurers to lead the way in improving industrial process safety. Of particular interest to the business community is the Corporate Crisis Management document (PDF) that offers detailed guidance for all facets of managing a chemical incident from prevention to recovery.

Centers for Disease Control

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s National Center for Infectious Diseasesmaintains the Office of Disease Surveillance to monitor infectious disease outbreaks across the nation. The CDC also maintains an index of infectious diseases.


The Chemical Transportation Emergency Center (CHEMTREC) serves as a round-the-clock resource for obtaining immediate emergency response information for accidental chemical releases. CHEMTREC is linked to the largest network of chemical and hazardous material experts in the world including chemicals and response specialists within the carrier community, public emergency services, and private contractors. CHEMTREC also provides a cost-effective method for shippers of hazardous materials to comply with federal regulations.

Environmental Protection Agency Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (CEPPO)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (CEPPO) provides leadership, builds partnerships, and offers technical assistance to: prevent and prepare for chemical emergencies; respond to environmental crises; inform the public about chemical hazards in their community; and share lessons learned about chemical accidents.

Health Protection Agency

The United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency’s Centre for Infections includes infectious disease surveillance, providing specialist and reference microbiology and microbial epidemiology, co-ordinating the investigation and cause of national and uncommon outbreaks, helping advise government on the risks posed by various infections and responding to international health alerts.

Pittsburgh Poison Center

The Pittsburgh Poison Center is our region’s central resource for poison help, including specific information for business and industry and about biochemical acts of terrorism.

Responsible Care® Toolkit

The American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care Toolkit site offers the latest version of the Council’s Security code, a management system for implementing environmental health and safety protection, and guidance documents for a safer chemical industry.

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