Top Corporate Air Polluters Named

A new list of the top corporate air polluters in the United States was released today by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts.

A Toxic 100 report identifies which large companies emit the most toxic pollutants into the air and informs consumers and shareholders about them, according to James K. Boyce, PERI director of environment. As well as measuring how many pounds of pollutants are released, we also measure the most toxic pollutants and the number of people at risk. Legislators need to understand the effects of pollution on their constituents. People have a right to know about toxic hazards to which they are exposed.

A toxic 100 index is formed by the release of hundreds of chemicals by industrial facilities across the United States. As well as considering the quantity of chemicals released, rankings also consider their relative toxicity, nearby populations, and transport factors, including wind patterns and smokestack height.

Among companies on Fortune 500, Fortune Global 500, Forbes Global 2000, and Standard & Poor’s 500 lists of the world’s largest corporations, the Toxic 100 index identifies the top air polluters in the U.S. E.I. du Pont de Nemours, Nissan Motor, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Eastman Kodak, and General Electric are the Toxic 100’s top five companies.

A foreign corporation with a facility in the United States is included in the Toxic 100 for the first time, says co-director Michael Ash of the Corporate Toxics Information Project. Nisssan, Bayer Group, and Acelor Mittal are all foreign companies on the Toxic 100.

You can check out each company’s Toxic Score by going to the web-based list, where you’ll see where they own individual facilities, which chemicals they emit, how toxic they are, and how much they contribute to their overall score.

Users can search the EPA database for detailed information on all 7,000 companies with facilities, as well as the Toxic 100 list of companies that cause pollution.

Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is often cited in press accounts to identify local polluters, but this data alone has three limitations:

  • There are up to ten million times more hazardous chemicals than others based on raw TRI data, without taking into account differences in toxicity.

  • It’s hard to tell how many people are affected by toxic releases based on the distance from a population center versus upwind from a densely populated city.

  • Data are reported by facility, so you can’t get an overall picture by combining plants owned by one corporation.

Toxic 100 takes care of all three problems based on the EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEIs). For corporate rankings, PERI researchers added up RSEI data from facilities by facilities. RSEI data includes toxicity weights and the number of people at risk, along with TRI data.

Boyce says we’re building on the right-to-know movement by making this info available. In order to help residents translate their right to clean air into the right to know, we want to get the public involved in environmental decision-making.

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Alex Jones

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