A Dallas Morning News investigations showed that even the best national data on chemical accidents is wrong nine times out of 10. Its analysis of more than 750,000 federal records found pervasive inaccuracies and holes in data on chemical accidents, such as the one in West, Texas, that killed 15 people and injured more than 300 on April 17. In fact, no one at any level of government knows how often serious chemical accidents occur each year in the United States. And there is no plan in place for federal agencies to gather more accurate information.
As a result, the kind of data sharing ordered by President Barack Obama in response to the West explosion is unlikely to improve the government's ability to answer even the most basic questions about chemical safety. “We can track Gross National Product to the second and third decimal, but there is no reliable way of tracking even simple things like how many [chemical] accidents happen,” said one expert. This is just scandalous.”