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Chemical Manufacturers Cut Toxic Releases 32%

Specialty chemical manufacturers are decreasing the amount of toxic chemicals they release to the environment, according to the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates.

As a condition of membership, SOCMA member companies participate in ChemStewards, an environmental, health, safety and security program designed to promote continuous environmental improvement. The program collects various environmental data, such as that used in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, which provides the public with information about a company’s chemical releases and waste management activities.

According to SOCMA figures, drawn from EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, total reported toxic releases by SOCMA members fell from 2,340,870 pounds in 2007 to 1,585,400 pounds in 2010, a 32 percent reduction.

Releases to the air fell from 2,291,910 pounds in 2007 to 1,488,568 pounds in 2010. For the average SOCMA member, the TRI water release data shows a decreasing trend from 1,220 pounds in 2007 to 1,040 pounds in 2010.

SOCMA says land releases dropped from 6,359 pounds in 2007 to 1,318 pounds in 2009, a 79 percent fall. (SOCMA originally stated that the drop in land releases from 2007 to 2009 was 48 percent, but later corrected this figure. The weights originally stated are correct, the organization says.)

However, land releases showed what SOCMA calls a “slight” increase from 2009 to 2010. SOCMA has not supplied figures for the 2009 to 2010 increase, but says that the overall picture from 2007 is of “a negative slope.”

The association says the results are a product of its commitment to help its members improve their environmental performance.

SOCMA and the EPA clashed last year when the agency told five chemical companies that the identities of 14 chemicals, associated with a number of health and safety studies submitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act, were not eligible for confidential treatment. The EPA said the move would increase public knowledge about the risks associated with the chemicals. SOCMA called the move “shortsighted” and said that it could harm the industry’s economic prospects.

The association argued that disclosing the identity of certain chemicals could reveal information about the manufacturing process of those chemicals, and in those instances, should be treated as confidential business information.

In November, the EPA announced that it will reinstate mandatory Toxic Release Inventory reporting requirements for hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide was added to the inventory’s list of toxic chemicals by rule in 1993, but the rule was suspended a year later.

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