Concern about petrochemical health risk before and after a refinery explosion

Malcolm P. Cutchin, Kathryn Remmes Martin, Steven V. Owen, James S. Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


On March 23, 2005, a large explosion at an oil refinery in Texas City, Texas caused 15 deaths and approximately 170 injuries. Little is known about how such an industrial accident influences concern about environmental health risks. We used measures of environmental health concern about nearby petrochemical production with a sample of Texas City residents to understand patterns of concern and change in concern after an industrial accident, as well as individual and contextual factors associated with those patterns. Survey interviews with residents of Texas City, Texas (N = 315) both pre- and postexplosion using a brief Concern About Petrochemical Health Risk Scale (CAPHRS) and other questions were used to collect pertinent predictor information. CAPHRS baseline, postexplosion, and change scores were compared and modeled using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression and a mixed model. Higher preexplosion CAPHRS scores were predicted by younger adults, foreign-born Hispanics, non-Hispanic blacks, lower- and middle-income groups, and those who live with someone who has worked at the petrochemical plants. Higher CAPHRS change scores are predicted by the same variables (except income), as well as proximity to, or perception of, the explosion, and reports of neighborhood damage. Findings suggest these groups' concern scores could indicate a greater vulnerability to psychological and physical harm generated by concern and stress arising from local petrochemical activities. A clearer understanding of concern about actual environmental health risks in exposed populations may enhance the evolving theory of stress and coping and eventually enable public health professionals to develop appropriate mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-601
Number of pages13
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Concern
  • Environmental health risk
  • Petrochemical
  • Stress
  • Texas City

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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