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Canadian polluters responsible for big part of jump in chemical releases and transfers

Montreal, QC -- Your local manufacturing, power or disposal facility is likely releasing more toxic chemicals into...


Montreal, QC — Your local manufacturing, power or disposal facility is likely releasing more toxic chemicals into the environment, says the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

The trinational organization has released its annual Taking Stock report, which revealed that a group of 15,000 industrial facilities across North America released and transferred 32% more toxic chemicals from 1998 to 2000. These facilities, with chemical releases and transfers up to 100 tonnes, represent the majority of polluters in Canada and the United States.

“It’s very discouraging to see such a large number of facilities report releasing more pollution in our environment, since they are found in communities across the continent,” said Victor Shantora, acting executive director for the CEC. “The small ‘p’ polluter might not grab the same headlines as a large power plant or chemical manufacturer, but their effect is being felt throughout the North American environment.”

In Canada, these “small p” polluters registered a 66% increase in chemical releases and transfers. In the United States, the same group recorded an increase of 29%.

By comparison, 3,600 facilities reporting more than 100 tonnes of chemical releases and transfers, recorded a 7% reduction in pollutants. However, they still account for 90% of the total pollution, with hydrochloric acid credited for the largest amount of releases.

All told, the report found more than 3.3 million tonnes of chemicals released and transferred in 2000, including known carcinogens and substances linked to birth defects. Six jurisdictions (Texas, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana) accounted for 37% of the total releases that year, with reports in excess of 165,000 tonnes of chemical releases and transfers each. The top 15 facilities reported 255,600 tonnes of releases and transfers, or 8% of the total.

And while the cross-border movement of pollutants is limited, Canada became a net exporter of toxic chemicals by virtue of a 43% drop in U.S. exports to Canada from 1998 to 2000. Canadian facilities sent roughly 36,000 tonnes of chemicals to the US in 2000

Overall, North America has reduced industrial releases and transfers of chemicals by 5% in the six years from 1995 to 2000. Decreases were most dramatic in the U.S. where on-site air releases dropped 31% over six years. Off-site releases increased by 41%.

This is the seventh report in the Taking Stock series, which matched 206 chemicals from the national pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTR) from Canada and the United States to present common 2000 data, as well as three and six-year overviews.

Do you have a question about a particular facility, industrial sector, province or state? The Taking Stock Online web site at www.cec.org/takingstock allows users to customize reports by chemical, facility, sector or geographic region.