Accidents happen. It’s part of life. Human error, mechanical malfunction, shoddy safety practices, deliberate terrorism, even natural disaster all could cause a life-threatening toxic cloud in your area.
Mexico has quite a history of such toxic cloud disasters. The thing is, it’s often hard to measure the real magnitude of the disaster with all the government cover-up that goes on. Here are a few examples.
In April of 2016, The Pemex facility in Coatzacoalcos had an explosion which reportedly killed 13 people and injured another 100. The explosion caused a massive fire (it is an oil refinery after all) which created a toxic cloud containing chloroethane among other toxic gasses.
Schools were suspended in six municipalities surrounding the toxic cloud site. Residents were told to stay inside their houses, although Mexican authorities insisted that the cloud posed no risk to the population. Pemex supported this statement and further assured the media that the explosion would not impact the plant’s oil exportation production. Whew! I’m sure everyone was worried about that!
This is not the first major accident for the Mexican company. In January of 2013, Pemex’s headquarters in Mexico City was hit by a massive gas explosion that killed 37 people.
In October of 2012, 30 people were killed and 42 wounded at another Pemex oil refinery in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The smoke from the toxic cloud that resulted was visible up to 10 miles away.
In Poza Rica, Veracruz in November of 1950, the Pemex oil refinery “accidentally” released hydrogen sulfide into the air. Over 20 people were killed while they slept and 320 were treated for exposure. The toxic cloud killed 50% of the animals that were exposed to its gasses.
Another incident on Poza Rica occurred in May of 2002. A series of explosions occurred at the refinery, killing one, burning two and injuring 7 in the toxic cloud that resulted.
In May of 1991, there was an explosion and subsequent fire at the national pesticide plant ANAVERSA in Cordoba, Veracruz which created a toxic cloud made up of Xylene. The vapors killed 5 people and caused dozens to be treated for inhalation of the chemical compound that affects the central nervous system.
In Nanchital, Veracruz in April of 2005, workers attempting to repair a pipeline, mistakenly cut an ammonia pipe releasing a toxic cloud into the neighborhood. Six workers were killed, 297 others were treated for exposure and more than 1,500 were evacuated.
Pemex has numerous received accolades for its safety standards year after year, however, the death toll is in the thousands. Those listed above are only a small segment of industrial air contamination caused by the national oil company.
In 2005 alone, 516.9 thousand tons of SOx emissions were released into the atmosphere by Pemex facilities. SOx emissions are the major precursor of acid rain.
At times a toxic cloud results from deliberate actions. An explosion on a drilling platform off the coast of Louisiana in 2010 caused a massive oil spill which was then set on fire in an attempt to keep the spill from spreading. The fire in the Gulf of Mexico created an enormous toxic cloud, which of course, the U.S. government felt would be the lesser of two evils and cause less damage than allowing the oil spill to reach land.
Then there was that naled aerial spraying in North Carolina in August of 2016. Not only were millions of bees and other beneficial insects killed, but naled is a compound toxic to humans as well, causing damaged to the nervous system, birth defects, paralysis, and death.
Smog is yet another form of toxicity found in the air. Smog is highly toxic to humans and has been proven to cause sickness and death among those that breath it in. Mexico City is the most smog-plagued city in Latin America
Although the Mexican government is quick to point out that Mexico City’s air quality is better than much of China and India.
So what do you do in the event of a toxic cloud in your area? Well, a biohazard suit would come in handy. However, in the event that your suit is at the cleaner’s, any cloth used to cover your mouth and nose that minimizes the amount of toxic fumes you inhale would help as you move away from the source as quickly as possible. A biohazard mask would be good to have in this case.
Another tip that might work in some areas is to go into an airtight building. I have to say though that most buildings in Mexico are far from airtight so this might not be as helpful as it would be in more modern areas.
Remove any clothing that might have been exposed to the toxic cloud and dispose of it. Then shower to remove any residue left on your skin. Unfortunately, some chemicals react negatively to water so this might cause even more problems.
Several prepper sites recommended listening for official announcements by someone in authority for instructions on evacuation. I’m going to say that again that government cover-up might preclude this as being a valid life-saving option.
La Yacata would be an excellent place to be to survive a toxic cloud catastrophe as it is far from any Pemex refineries, there are no pipes going through the area, ammonia or otherwise, and since our 95-year-old pesticide spraying neighbor no longer plants any crops, the air in and around us is totally breathable, unless you are downwind of the pig farmer that is. (See Hate thy neighbor). The area is still sparsely populated so government agencies are not spraying toxic chemicals to eliminate Zika carrying mosquitos either. They don’t really care if we get Zika or not, which is just as well I think. Don’t you?