US: Texas explosions: When will we inquire about alternatives to ammonia?

19th Apr 2013

waco fertisliser explosion april 2013

By Sarah Marshall

(The Muslim News): Wednesday evening’s fertilizer plant explosion near Waco, Texas, has people asking the wrong questions. Of course, there should be answers regarding what caused the blast, but why, when it is capable of causing a major explosion killing fourteen people and leveling buildings, is it that we choose to grow our food in this toxic substance anyway?


Anhydrous ammonia can be extremely toxic to humans, and has even been known to leak fumes from this particular Texas plant before. They even reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the plant “presented no risk of fire of explosion, according to the Dallas Morning News.”


Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers are the most widely used because they promote plant growth, yet have also been linked to algal blooms in bodies of water, which eventually cause dead zones where nothing else can live or grow. Yet that is where most of the fertilizer applied to a crop goes, into nearby lakes and rivers as runoff.


There are a variety of natural alternatives to nitrogen fertilizers, such as cow manure and sewage sludge, legumes that have been biologically broken down by the sun, and compost mixed with used coffee grounds and grass clippings. These are much more cost effective, efficient, and better soil building alternatives to conventional nitrogen fertilizer, which takes an immense amount of fuel to produce.


In this particular Texas town near Waco, people are shocked and saddened. Fear perpetuates an unwillingness to ask the controversial questions, but where is the accountability?


Will there be justice for the families living in this small town of only 2,500? Americans take on risky business endeavors constantly, but with proper safety reporting and accountability measures; the public accepts the risk for the sake of a seemingly greater gain, such as with nuclear power.


Clearly, there was more than a “risk” of explosion, and there will be a lot of mourning as a result of that miscalculation.


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