The top 100 corporate air pollutants in the United States were updated for the fourth time by researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
According to Professor James Boyce, co-director of PERI’s Corporate Toxics Information Project, “The Harmful 100 Air Polluters educate consumers and shareholders which huge firms discharge the most toxic chemicals into our air.” We consider not only the quantity of pollutants discharged but also their toxicity and the number of at-risk individuals. People have a right to be informed about any harmful risks they may be facing. Legislators must be aware of how pollution affects the people they represent.
Based on air discharges of hundreds of chemicals from tens of thousands of industrial sites around the United States, the Toxic 100 Air Polluters Index was created. The rankings consider not just the volume of discharges, but also chemical toxicity, elements like prevailing winds and chimney height, as well as the number of individuals exposed.
The top five major businesses that contribute to air pollution are:
• The Bayer Group, a German company,
General Electric Company
Precision Castparts, as well as
The largest privately owned companies, including Koch Industries, as well as the biggest publicly traded enterprises in the world are listed in the Toxic 100 Air Polluters rankings.
The Toxic 100 Air Polluters also provides details on the disproportionate hazards that low-income and minority areas face from industrial air pollution. This makes it feasible to evaluate businesses and facilities based on how they perform in terms of environmental justice and total pollution. For instance, the findings show that, while making up less than 40% of the U.S. population, minorities are at danger from ExxonMobil plants for 69 percent of the air toxics.
The Toxic 100 Air Polluters list allows users to view the specifics of each company’s Toxic Score, including the names and locations of each facility that belongs to the company, the chemicals that are released by those facilities, and the percentage of the Toxic Score that is borne by minorities and those who are poor. Additionally, the website offers a searchable database with this data for all companies doing business in the United States, regardless of size.
The Toxics Release Inventory of the United States Environmental Protection Agency provides the information on chemical discharges (TRI). The TRI is frequently featured in press articles that list the worst polluters in different cities. But reports based only on TRI data have the following three drawbacks:
• Differences in toxicity are not taken into consideration when reporting the raw TRI data, which is presented in total pounds of chemicals. Some compounds are up to 10 million times more dangerous than others, pound for pound.
* The numbers of persons impacted by hazardous discharges are not taken into account in TRI statistics, for instance, the difference between facilities upwind from heavily populated urban areas and those situated far from population centres.
• To provide a picture of the performance of the company as a whole, TRI statistics are given on a facility-by-facility basis rather than grouping plants owned by one firm.
Using information from the EPA’s 2007 Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI), the Toxic 100 index addresses all three issues. The RSEI also combines population exposure, fate-and-transport models, and toxicity weights to give a complete picture of the chronic human health risk posed by airborne industrial toxics. To create business rankings, PERI researchers total facility-by-facility RSEI data supplied by the EPA.
According to Professor Michael Ash, co-Director of the project, “by making this information public, we are building on the successes of the right-to-know campaign.” Our mission is to encourage public involvement in environmental decision-making and to assist locals in converting the right to information into the right to clean air.
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