Toxic Chemicals in the Environment? Who Knew?

By Christine Cupaiuolo — July 18, 2007

The only thing worse than learning that U.S. companies released 38 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air and water that are known or suspected to cause reproductive disorders is discovering that companies won’t have to self-report that data as thoroughly as before.

The 38-million figure comes from Colorado Public Interest Research Group (CoPIRG), which on Monday released the Toxic Pollution and Health report (PDF).

But as Wendy Norris writes, the report “may be the last complete analysis of its kind since the Bush Administration drastically reduced the standards by which companies will now self-report emissions data on more than 600 toxic chemicals.”

Alarmingly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified the basic toxicity of only seven percent of the most frequently manufactured chemicals in the U.S.

Citing the most recently available data from the EPA’s 2004 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), the citizen activist group found that Tennessee, Texas and Illinois, respectively, ranked highest in the release of reproductive toxicants primarily due to their concentration of chemical, rubber, petroleum, and related industries. More than 70 percent of reported toxic pollution affecting reproductive health is produced by these three states alone. These emissions, in sufficient quantities, are known to cause spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, birth defects, and sterility in both men and women.

The reason for the reduction in reporting? It will save businesses paperwork and money.

And, of course, any worry or concern.

Apparently if we don’t know there’s a problem, well, there is no problem.

There are bills pending in the House and Senate to restore the public’s right to know about the release of toxic chemicals. Find out more from PIRG here (PDF).

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