Social and political amplification of technological hazards: The case of the PEPCON explosion

Olurominiyi O. Ibitayo, Alvin Mushkatel, David Pijawka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Using an industrial explosion in Henderson, Nevada, as a case study, this paper examines three main issues: the efficacy of a technological hazard event in amplifying otherwise latent issues, the extent to which the hazard event can serve as a focusing event for substantive local and state policy initiatives, and the effect of fragmentation of political authority in managing technological hazards. The findings indicate that the explosion amplified several public safety issues and galvanized the public into pressing for major policy initiatives. However, notwithstanding the amplification of several otherwise latent issues, and the flurry of activities by the state and local governments, the hazard event did not seem to be an effective focusing event or trigger mechanism for substantive state and local policy initiatives. In addition, the study provides evidence of the need for a stronger nexus between political authority, land-use planning and technological hazard management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-25
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Oct 18 2004


  • Focusing event
  • Industrial explosion
  • Risk amplification
  • Technological hazards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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