A recent report has named the 100 worst air-polluting corporations –and the top five ” winners” are: Bayer Group, ExxonMobil, Sunoco, DuPont (so much for “better living through chemistry!”, and Arcelor Mittal. The losers are those of us who have to breathe the air and pay the costs. A true silent killer, it is estimated that air pollution kills 70,000 Ameircans per year, while traffic fatalities number 40,000 per year.
The Toxic 100 report comes at a time when stricter air pollution regulations are being fought as an enemy to economic recovery; yet the health care costs of air pollution are well-documented and a real drag on the economy in lost work days, school absenteeism, and healthcare costs.
The report reveals how many pounds of pollutants are released by the sum of each corporation’s facilities, which chemicals are the most toxic, and how many people are at risk. This year’s report for the first time includes data showing the disproportionate effects of air pollution on those living or working near these plants: the poor and minorities. For example, the data reveal that minorities bear 65% of the air toxics risk from facilities owned by ExxonMobil, while making up 38% of the U.S. population. While 12.9% of Americans live below the poverty line, the poor comprise 27.1% of those affected by chemical giant Pfizer’s U.S. operations.
Air pollution costs everyone, no matter how far away from company smokestacks. Last month a RAND Corporation study showed that dirty air caused more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care from 2005 to 2007 in the state of California alone. Hospital admissions triggered by air pollution for acute bronchitis, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease accounted for nearly one-third of the $193 million in health care spending documented over the study period.
The Toxic 100 was released by the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, using data from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. The Toxic 100 rankers then include Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators data, also from the EPA, to correct for such disparities as the relative toxicity of different materials, pound for pound, the number of people affected based on plants’ location, and by combining the data of all facilities owned by a corporation. The searchable database of air pollution statistics can be accessed at the Toxic 100 site.
Be aware that state and local measures to gut air pollution laws are often funded by the very companies that are causing the dirty air.
Sign the petition Don’t Let Congress Gut the Clean Air Act.
Photo: Eric Schmuttenmaer via Flickr; CC license