29 May 2002
N.A. toxic releases hit 3.4M metric tons in '99, report shows
Montreal - Factories, electric utilities, hazardous waste management facilities and coal mines in Canada and the United States generated almost 3.4 million metric tons of toxic chemical waste in 1999, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America reported today.
That total included 269,000 metric tons of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive problems, the international organization said it its annual Taking Stock report. Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ontario recorded the largest total releases, and electrical utilities, as an industry, showed the largest total releases in North America - over 450,000 metric tons, according to the study.
Canada, Mexico and the United States created CEC under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC). The commission was established to address regional environmental concerns, help prevent potential trade and environmental conflicts, and to promote the effective enforcement of environmental law. The organization complements environmental provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), officials said.
Canada and the U.S. government collected data for the report. Mexico is not yet required to report data. However, the CEC report praises 117 Mexican facilities that reported 1999 data voluntarily.
This year's toxic release study included CEC's first five-year analysis of pollution releases and management. The five-year trend shows a slight 3% decline in the total of toxic chemicals generated, but big changes in how those pollutants are handled.
For example, the North American manufacturing sector's 25% reduction in releases to air was largely offset by a 25% increase in on-site releases to land, and a 35% increase in off-site releases - mostly to landfills. Releases to lakes, rivers and streams also increased during this period by 26%, CEC said.
"'Out of the air, into the land and water' emerges as a major trend from our five-year analysis," said CEC executive director Janine Ferretti. "North America's progress in reducing toxic releases to air must continue, but it also must be matched by reductions in land and water releases."
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