pollution woes The Indiana Star
Our position is:A state-by-state
report on pollution data provides a needed gauge for environmental
officials and the public.
Kudos to the U.S. Public Interest Research
Group in Washington, D.C., for its comprehensive, state-by-state
analysis of air and water pollution data for 1987 to 2000,
reported by industries to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Indiana deserves a bit less praise, in light
of findings that in 2000, the state ranked as third-worst
polluter in the country in the release of cancer-causing
chemicals into the air and water. Only Texas and Pennsylvania
For the 1987-2000 period, Indiana ranked
second in the release of carcinogens; fifth in the release
of developmental toxins; seventh in the release of reproductive
toxins; sixth in the release of suspected neurological
toxins; and sixth in the release of suspected respiratory
No. 1 on Indiana's air-carcinogen pollution
list in 2000 was Carpenter Co. in Elkhart, a plastics
foam products manufacturer responsible for the discharge
of more than 1.1 million pounds of cancer-causing agents
into the air. The next two worst offenders, also in Elkhart,
make plastics foam products, too. In fact, of the top
15 carcinogen-releasing firms here in Indiana that year,
eight, or 53 percent, manufactured plastic foam, materials
A few Indianapolis firms made the Top 30
air-carcinogen list in 2000: Horner Electric, 40,000 pounds;
Indianapolis Foundry, 39,879 pounds; and Reilly Industries,
To Indiana's credit, companies such as GE
Plastics in Mount Vernon have improved dramatically from
their miserable rankings in the 1990s, back then among
the worse polluters in the country. With federal and state
mandates further reducing emissions on such toxins as
styrene and methylene chloride, it is hoped the EPA's
next Toxics Release Inventory, due out in 2004, will show
State monitoring groups, such as the Indiana
Department of Environmental Management, are doing their
jobs well, as are such groups as U.S. PIRG, the public
interest advocacy organization that released the pollutant
U.S. PIRG is not just content to report,
however; it's currently lobbying for the reintroduction
of two important pieces of federal legislation this session.
The first is a proposal for a national health-tracking
system with greater monitoring of exposure to dangerous
chemicals and a system to warn the public of toxicity
The second is a bill requiring industrial
and chemical facilities to conduct vulnerability and hazard
assessments to guard against terrorist attacks. The facilities
also would be required to develop plans for improving
site security and reducing chemical hazards.
Both proposals are sound policy that would
be cost-effective in the long run.
"The Nationwide Health Tracking Act came
out of a recommendation from the Pew Environmental Health
Commission at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and
Public Health," said Meghan Purvis, environmental health
associate at U.S. PIRG. "We have been advocating for the
Nationwide Health Tracking Act since its inception."
An ounce of prevention is well worth a pound
of pollution. Reports such as U.S. PIRG's are among the
best ways to gauge how well the nation's industries are
following that philosophy.
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