Air travelers are asking for trouble if they show up for a flight with 3.5 ounces of shampoo in their carry-on bags. But the Department of Homeland Security has decided that the government should not even trouble chemical plants to account for the storage of anything under 2,500 pounds of deadly chlorine. The department’s new rules on reporting stockpiles of toxic chemicals, issued last week, have certainly made the industry happy. They should make the public worried.
The rules the department issued last week are far too lax about when facilities need to report stockpiles of chemicals like chlorine, fluorine and hydrogen fluoride to the government. According to the new rules, which watered-down proposed rules that the department had released in April, a chemical plant does not have to report the storage of 2,499 pounds of chlorine, even if it is located in a populated area — or across from an elementary school.
If 450 pounds of chlorine are stolen, enough to cause mass casualties, the theft need not be reported. Chlorine has been used by insurgents in Iraq, and it is high on the list of chemicals that should be kept out of terrorists’ hands.