Factories reduce their cancer-causing emissions in England and Wales

Carcinogenic chemical emissions from English and Welsh factories have been reduced by 40% since 1998, according to Friends of the Earth’s (FoE) analysis of the Environment Agency’s pollution inventory.

This statistic puts the FoE ‘Factory Watch’ target, for an 80% cut in the release of cancer-causing gases from factories by 2005, at the halfway point.

FoE is happy with the reduction in harmful emissions from factories but much work still needs to be done, says Mike Childs, Senior Pollution Campaign at FoE. In an effort to further reduce emissions FoE have compiled a ‘Top Ten’ list of factories whom they say cause 70% of the pollution. The ‘number one’ offender is Ineos Chlor, Runcorn; this company was ranked as the second highest polluter in 1998.

There have also been cases of marked improvement in emissions from some factories. For example Solutia UK Ltd (Wales) has reduced its annual release of Volatile Organic Compounds by 60% and BP Chemicals Ltd (Port Talbot, Wales) have reduced sulphur dioxide emissions by 80% from 1999 to 2000.

However, FoE are calling for additional measures from the Government to help the Environment Agency further clamp down on offending factories. The organisation wants the Government to set health based air quality standards for chemicals released by factories. FoE has also urged an amendment of the Government’s draft guidance to the Agency, which would allow it to consider health impacts in its work and permit the Agency to take precautionary action where necessary.

The Government must not “tie the Agency’s hands by forcing it to jump through bureaucratic hoops”, says Childs.

There has been a shift in the focus of industry towards health issues, Childs told edie. He sees the FoE campaigns as instrumental in this change. However whilst the English and Welsh public have seen an improvement in their air quality, the Scottish Executive has been reluctant to introduce a pollution inventory there, Childs says. Despite a promise from the Executive in January, to undertake work on an inventory, there are no plans to produce public records to inform Scottish people of polluting factories in their area.

Dr Richard Dixon, Head of Research at FoE Scotland, commented: “The fall in cancer-causing gases in England and Wales is very good news, but in Scotland we have no idea of how our factories are doing in comparison.” He called for urgent progress in the Executive’s work to create a similar system for Scotland.

Story by Sorcha Clifford.

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