Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Amherst, Massachusetts - Researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts released the Toxic 100, an updated list of the top corporate air polluters in the United States.
"The Toxic 100 informs consumers and shareholders which large corporations release the most toxic pollutants into our air," said James K. Boyce, director of PERI's environment program. "We measure not just how many pounds of pollutants are released, but which are the most toxic and how many people are at risk. People have a right to know about toxic hazards to which they are exposed. Legislators need to understand the effects of pollution on their constituents."
The Toxic 100 index is based on air releases of hundreds of chemicals from industrial facilities across the United States. The rankings take into account not only the quantity of releases, but also the relative toxicity of chemicals, nearby populations and transport factors such as prevailing winds and height of smokestacks.
The Toxic 100 index identifies the top US air polluters among corporations that appear in the Fortune 500, Fortune Global 500, Forbes Global 2000 and Standard & Poor's 500 lists of the world's largest corporations. The Toxic 100's top five companies are E.I. du Pont de Nemours, Nissan Motor, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Eastman Kodak and General Electric.
The new edition of the Toxic 100 for the first time includes foreign corporations with facilities in the United States. "This addition reveals a number of important sources of industrial toxic pollution," said Corporate Toxics Information Project co-director Michael Ash. Three of the top ten corporations in the Toxic 100 - Nissan, Bayer Group and Acelor Mittal - are foreign-based firms.
Users of the web-based list can view the details behind each company's Toxic Score, including the names and locations of individual facilities owned by the corporation, the specific chemicals emitted by those facilities, their toxicities and their contributions to the company's overall score.
A new feature of the web site is a look-up tool that allows users to access detailed information on all 7,000 companies with facilities in the EPA database as well as the Toxic 100 list of top polluters.
The data on chemical releases come from the US Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI is widely cited in press accounts that identify the top polluters in various localities. But reports based on TRI data alone have three limitations:
- Raw TRI data are reported in total pounds of chemicals, without taking into account differences in toxicity. Pound-for-pound, some chemicals are up to ten million times more hazardous than others.
- TRI data do not calculate the numbers of people affected by toxic releases-for example, the difference between facilities upwind from densely populated urban areas and those located far from population centers.
- TRI data are reported on a facility-by-facility basis, without combining plants owned by one corporation to get a picture of overall corporate performance.
The Toxic 100 index tackles all three problems by using the most recent Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) data developed by the EPA. In addition to the TRI data, the RSEI data include toxicity weights and the number of people at risk. PERI researchers added up facility-by-facility RSEI data released by the EPA to construct corporate rankings.
"In making this information available, we are building on the achievements of the right-to-know movement," Boyce explains. "Our goal is to engender public participation in environmental decision-making, and to help residents translate the right to know into the right to clean air."
Toxic 100 Links
Michael Ash is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. His research focuses on the areas of health care, environmental justice, civil rights and health. For further information, contact Professor Michael Ash at (413) 545-6329 or visit PERI's Corporate Toxic Information Project on the web.
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