New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection received kudos from a federal agency for adding reactive chemicals to the list of "extraordinarily hazardous substances" that trigger the risk management planning requirements of the state's Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act.

"The Chemical Safety Board is very concerned about reactive hazards," said CSB chairwoman Carolyn Merritt. "I am happy to see this kind of life-saving action being taken in New Jersey and commend New Jersey officials. We would like to see action taken on a federal level as well in the interest of protecting workers and residents who live near chemical plants."

Following an extensive, two-year study of reactive hazards in the chemical industry, the five-member CSB Board last fall approved recommendations to EPA and OSHA on the need for additional regulation of reactive hazards. The CSB study identified 167 reactive incidents that caused 108 deaths over a 20-year period. Dr. Gerald Poje, on behalf of the CSB, earlier this year had urged New Jersey officials to take action.

Chemical products often are made through the process of chemical reactions. But when chemicals are improperly mixed or improperly exposed to heat, pressure or incompatible substances, they can explode and cause death and destruction of property.

"We have found a need for plant management to study potential reactive hazards before they make changes to their processes because accidents occur when inadequate safety and control measures are in place," Chairwoman Merritt said.

New Jersey announced it would require companies handling reactive chemicals to prepare accidental release prevention plans and examine safer technologies to prevent industrial incidents like the tragic ones that occurred at Napp Technologies in Lodi in 1995 and at Morton International in Paterson in 1998. Both explosions were the result of the improper mixing of certain chemicals.