Case study of a chemical fire in an urban neighborhood: A wakeup call for the emergency response system

Alexandra Degher, PhD, Anna K. Harding, PhD


In August 1992, a fire occurred at a computer circuit board manufacturing facility located in South Phoenix, Arizona, in which toxic smoke blanketed the surrounding community for a period of over eight hours. Debate continues as to whether or not government agencies took the steps needed to protect the exposed community during this emergency. Gov ernment officials were impeded in their ability to be effective due to organizational issues (lack of funding, poor communication, and an unfriendly political environment) and their inability to link exposures to reported health problems. Residents believed the case was one of environmental racism. This case study explores the factors that played a role in the unsatisfactory outcome of this event, and highlights the impact that citizen involvement had in improving the local emergency response system.



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