Sandoz Chemical Disaster

On November 1, 1986, a fire broke out at the Sandoz chemical storehouse at Schweizerhalle, an industrial area near Basel, Switzerland. The fire destroyed the entire storehouse, contaminating the environment with more than a thousand tons of chemicals. The water used by fire fighters to combat the fire inadvertently swept thousands of litres of highly toxic pesticides and deadly mercury into the Rhine River, turning the water red and killing nearly all plant and animal life for 180 kilometres downstream and making the river water temporarily unsafe for drinking. Fourteen people had to be treated for fume poisoning. Sandoz has been the most severe chemical accident in Swiss history and one the greatest environmental disasters in Europe. It triggered significant progress towards the prevention of such disasters through legal regulations and controls as well as transboundary cooperation, such as the Rhine Action Programme (RAP) of 1987.

Further Readings: 
  • Giger, Walter. "The Rhine Red, the Fish Dead—The 1986 Schweizerhalle Disaster, a Retrospect and Long-term Impact Assessment." Environmental Science and Pollution Research 16, no. 1 (2009): 98-111.
  • Halfon, Efraim, and Rainer Büggemann. "Environmental Hazard Ranking of Chemicals Spilled in the Rhine River in November 1986." Acta hydrochimica et hydrobiologica 17, no. 1 (2006): 47-60.
  • Jungkind, Thilo. "Risikostrategien und ‚Störfallkrisen‘ in der chemischen Industrie: Eine unternehmensgeschichtliche Perspektive." In Krisengeschichte(n): ‚Krise‘ als Leitbegriff und Erzählmuster in kulturwissenschaftlicher Perspektive, edited by Carla Meyer, Katja Patzel-Mattern, and Gerrit Jasper Schenk. Stuttgart: Steiner, 2012.