Factories emitting 10,000 tonnes of carcinogenic chemicals

The UK's biggest factories are releasing over 10,000 tonnes of cancer- causing chemicals into the air, according to Friends of the Earth's (FoE) analysis of the UK Environment Agency's newly-released Pollution Inventory.

The environmental group says that Associated Octel in Ellesmere Port is the worst polluter, releasing 4,090 tonnes of cancer-causing chemicals, down from 5,340 tonnes in 1996 (the last data published).

FoE also say that total reported ICI releases from factories in Runcorn and Middlesborough have increased by over 800 tonnes to 4382 tonnes. Glaxo Wellcome’s releases at Ulverston have increased by almost 20 per cent to 992 tonnes, the group claim.

The Environment Agency launched its Pollution Inventory with the intention of improving public access to environmental information and reducing pollution. The Inventory provides details of emissions to air, land and water from over 2,000 processes regulated by the Agency under Integrated Pollution Control (IPC). The most potentially polluting industries will report annually on their emissions against a standard list of over 150 pollutants known to cause environmental damage or human harm if they exceed the reporting threshold.

The public can enter their postcode into EA’s website to access pollution information in their area. The UK Government will consider EA proposals to extend the reporting requirements to landfill sites and sewage treatment works it regulates. This would take the number of installations reporting into the inventory from 2,000 to 13,000.

There is also a longer term plan to broaden the scope to include the 13,000 or so installations regulated by local authorities under Local Authority Pollution Control.

However, FoE has called on the UK Government to set a statutory target to reduce the release of hazardous substances by 80 per cent by 2005. FoE is also demanding that the Pollution Prevention and Control Bill – currently before Parliament – is amended to give the public a comprehensive picture on pollution released into their area (including pollution from smaller factories, landfill sites, transport, etc).

FoE criticises UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher for failing to deliver on an election promise to introduce comprehensive pollution inventories.

In February, FoE launched Factory Watch, which named and shamed those companies releasing most cancer-causing chemicals. FoE accuses the EA’s Pollution Inventory of shying away from using the same approach and of not outlining the health threats associated with the chemicals released.

FoE intends to carry out a more thorough analysis of the Pollution Inventory and to publish national and regional “cancer-threat” league tables. FOE has also recently published research showing industrial pollution hits poorer communities harder.

“The Government must make drastic cuts in this pollution if they are serious about protecting public health,” said Mike Childs, FoE’s Senior Pollution Campaigner. “They must also deliver on their election promise to give people a decent right to know about all the pollution in their neighbourhoods.”

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