Chemical manufacturing ranked third highest among all industries for releasing pollutants in North America during 2001, says a report released last week.
Electric utilities were the largest polluter, followed by metal-mining companies and chemical makers, the report says. All industries together reported 1.3 million metric tons of releases in 2001.
Compiled by the trinational North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the report combines data from the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory and Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory. Mexico does not have a mandatory reporting program for chemical releases, but a law is expected to be enacted there this year.
In 2001, air emissions made up 755,500 tons of the total pollutant releases in the U.S. and Canada, the report says. Electric utilities released 341,400 tons of pollutants, followed by paper producers with 85,500 tons. Next came chemical manufacturers with 83,900 tons and producers of rubber and plastics with 41,900 tons.
“We’re still pumping more chemicals into the air than all other methods of release combined,” says William V. Kennedy, executive director of the commission.
The report also lists emissions of specific compounds. For example, facilities in Canada and the U.S. reported nearly 384,000 kg of releases and transfers of mercury and its compounds in 2001; much of this went into landfills or was recycled. Air emissions of mercury and its compounds were 67,534 kg, with 43,384 kg from electric utilities and 7,578 kg from the chemical sector.