Precision Castparts, DuPont, Bayer Group, Dow Chemicals and ExxonMobil are the top five corporate air polluters in the US, say researchers at the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
BASF ranks No. 6, with LyondellBasell Industries, Renco Group, General Electric and Ineos Group rounding out the top 10 in the fifth edition of the Toxic 100 Air Polluters.
The list assess how many pounds of pollutants big firms release as well as the toxicity of chemicals, transport factors such as prevailing winds and height of smokestacks, and the number of people exposed. For example, the No. 1 firm, Precision Castparts, has a toxic score — pounds released multiplied by toxicity multiplied by population exposure) of 16.6 million and releases .11 millions of pounds of toxic pollutants (see chart). No. 2 DuPont, meanwhile, has a toxic score of 7.1 million with 10.94 millions of pounds of toxic air releases, according to the index.
The Toxic 100 Air Polluters index is based on air releases of hundreds of chemicals from 10s of thousands of industrial facilities across the US.
Users of the web-based Toxic 100 Air Polluters list can view the details behind each company’s toxic score, including the names and locations of individual facilities owned by the corporation, the chemicals emitted by those facilities, and the share of the toxic score borne by minorities and people living below the poverty line. The web edition also provides a searchable database with this information for all firms operating in the US, regardless of size.
The data on chemical releases come from the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. But, say PERI researchers, 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 10 million times more hazardous than others.
- TRI data do not consider 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 2010 Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) data from the EPA, PERI says. In addition to TRI data, EPA’s RSEI includes toxicity weights, fate-and-transport modeling, and population exposure. PERI researchers add up facility-by-facility RSEI data published by the EPA to construct corporate rankings.
American Electric Power, Duke Energy and Southern Company are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases in the US, according to the Greenhouse 100 index published in June by PERI researchers. Each of the top three companies emits more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Together, these three electrical power companies are responsible for more than 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from all sources combined in the US.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported Biomet ranked No. 3 among the Toxic 100. The company has submitted data to the EPA revising its 2010 TRI reporting. Based on the revision, PERI has ranked Biomet 71st on the Toxic 100 with a RSEI Score of 208,173. The next edition of the Toxic 100 will reflect the most current information from the EPA.