39% Of Toxic Air Emissions In USA Come From 100 Facilities

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There are ongoing concerns about the health of our ecosystems, our air, and the future our children face due to a legacy of industrialization and burning of fossil fuels. Those who work to reverse this do not stop either. Thankfully, there are also who have great endurance seeking to alert and protect the public.

In February, Environmental Integrity Project, a 501 (c)(3) nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that advocates for effective enforcement of environmental laws, published a new report on toxic air emissions in the United States that shows how much of the problem is centered in 100 places.

Map courtesy of Breath To The People

The Environmental Integrity Project is comprised of former EPA enforcement attorneys, public interest lawyers, analysts, investigators, and community organizers.

The report, Breath To The People: Sacred Air and Toxic Pollution, showed that 39% of all toxic air emissions in the US came from 100 facilities in 2018. Those 100 facilities also each have 250 or more people living within one mile of them. Inequity, as usual, plays a role too:

“Forty-four percent of the people living within this radius are low-income residents—significantly higher than the national average of just under 33 percent.”

The Toxic 100

The EIP analysis of emissions went into depth on more than 15,500 facilities. Dubbed the “Toxic 100,” due to their impact, the report focused on these main culprits. For an interactive map of the Toxic 100, visit https://www.ucc.org/breathtothepeople.

The saddest part of this circumstance is that an estimated 11,581 children live within a mile of the “Toxic 100,” and 112,681 live within 3 miles.

“This report highlights and reconfirms what we cannot overlook: Children are in direct harm’s way to toxic air pollution,” said Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Executive Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network. “We have evidence of children living near fence line communities, among clusters of polluting companies and those who are exposed to multiple injustices before us. This is far from okay and requires the urgent public will necessary to stand up for and protect the health, safety and future of our children today.”

“This report is our latest attempt to draw attention to the many threats posed by industrial pollution — especially to those living in close proximity the emission sources — and to provide common-sense and long-lasting solutions,” said Courtney Bernhardt, Research Director for the Environmental Integrity Project.

The Toxic 100 released at least 166 different chemicals or chemical compounds into the air in 2018. These chemicals consist of hundreds of different carcinogens, persistent bio-accumulative toxins, metals, and other toxic chemicals. Three of the most toxic chemicals released include ethylene oxide, hexavalent chromium, and nickel, all potent human carcinogens.

“The [United Church of Christ] has a long history of environmental justice work,” the Environmental Integrity Project notes.

“The Environmental Integrity Project is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that empowers communities and protects public health and the environment by investigating polluters, holding them accountable under the law, and strengthening public policy.”

Image courtesy A Just World For All.

Here are a few more highlights from the full story:

“More than a third (34 percent) of all toxicity-weighted air emissions came from just ten counties across the country, and 19 percent (884 million toxicity-weighted tons) of all toxic emissions reported to the TRI in 2018 came from 352 facilities in just four counties in Texas: Calhoun, Jefferson, Harris, and Webb. The remainder of the top ten counties include: Ascension and Calcasieu parishes in Louisiana; Humboldt County, Nevada; and Des Moines County, Iowa; and Montgomery County, Virginia.

“An estimated 169,654 people live within a mile of a Toxic 100 plant, and over 1.6 million live within three miles. At the national level, the percentage of people of color or Hispanics or Latinos, low-income residents, and children under five living within one mile of the Toxic 100 were all higher than national averages. Forty-four percent of the population is low income, which is significantly higher than the national average of just under 33 percent. Forty percent are people of color or Hispanic or Latino, while the national average is 38 percent. The percentage of children living within a mile of the Toxic 100, seven percent, is close to the national average of six percent. An estimated 11,581 children live within a mile of the Toxic 100, while 112,681 live within three miles.”

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