Healthcare Blog

Most Complete Picture Of North American Industrial Pollution Presented In Latest Trinational Report

July 05, 2017

Ninety percent of the 5.5 billion kilograms of toxic pollutant releases and transfers reported in North America in 2005 can be traced to just 30 substances from 15 industrial sectors across the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to the latest tri-national pollution report from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC).

Taking Stock 2005, released today,represents the most complete picture of pollution reporting from North American industrial facilities ever assembled. Beginning this year the CEC's annual Taking Stock report provides a broader perspective by expanding in scope to include all data reported in 2005 to the pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Also new this year, the report (cec) employs air release data from the US National Emissions Inventory (NEI) for criteria air contaminants-a group of pollutants associated with issues such as smog, acid rain, and respiratory effects-and for petroleum sectors not subject to reporting under the US PRTR program.

The United States accounted for about 82 percent of all reporting facilities, Canada 12 percent, and Mexico 6 percent. The year 2005 marks the second consecutive year of mandatory Mexican PRTR reporting.

"Taking Stock 2005 presents the clearest view ever of industrial pollution in North America, and confirms the progress in pollution management that we have tracked for the past decade," said Adrián Vázquez-Gálvez, CEC's executive director. "However, it also reveals some major blind spots. This information is critical to government, industry, and communities, and highlights issues of comparability and areas for further action on pollution reduction to address potential environmental and human health issues."

The report shows that the principal contributors to pollutant releases and transfers reported in each country were: Oil and gas extraction activities, primary metals and wastewater treatment in Canada;

Metal mines, electric utilities and electrical equipment manufacturing in Mexico; and

Chemicals manufacturing, primary metals and mines in the United States. An in-depth look at the North American petroleum industry in this year's report reveals that the industry reported about 1.5 billion kilograms-or one-quarter-of the 5.5 billion kilograms of toxic pollutants reported by all sectors in 2005. The industry was also responsible for 10 percent of the 32 billion kilograms of criteria air contaminants released across North America in 2005.

Analysis of 2002-2005 reporting by Canadian and US petroleum refineries and bulk storage terminals discloses that, on average, about 7 million kilograms of carcinogens and developmental or reproductive toxicants were released annually. Most of these pollutants were released to air and water.

The perspective of this year's report remains incomplete, however-a result of national differences in pollutant and industry sector coverage and compliance. Comparing the national petroleum industry profiles also reveals one of the most important such gaps in PRTR reporting across the three countries.

Hydrogen sulfide gas, a toxic pollutant having the smell of rotten eggs, is a common byproduct of oil and gas extraction and processing. PRTR regulations in both Canada and Mexico require hydrogen sulfide to be reported. In Canada, hydrogen sulfide from the oil and gas production sector represented over 90 percent of all toxics reported by the Canadian petroleum industry in 2005. In Mexico, however, no data on this substance were reported by the petroleum industry. In the United States, neither this pollutant nor the oil and gas production sector is subject to Toxics Release Inventory reporting requirements.

The report also discusses pollutants that were transferred across national borders. The majority of these consisted of metals such as lead, zinc, copper and nickel compounds, mainly sent to recycling facilities. A small number of other chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, phosphorus, and xylenes, were also sent across borders for recycling or other treatment.

Taking Stock compiles data from the three pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) in North America: Canada's National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), the United States' Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and Mexico's Registro de Emisiones y Transferencia de Contaminantes (RETC).

The Taking Stock Online website cec/takingstock allows users to further explore PRTR data for North America with customized reports by pollutant, facility, sector or geographic region. Taking Stock Online also provides interactive mapping of data search results using Google Maps, and features a North America-wide map layer displaying point-specific industrial pollutant data in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Using the Google Earth mapping service, the CEC's map layer displays about 35,000 North American industrial facilities that reported releases and transfers of pollutants in 2005. You can access this information at: cec/naatlas/prtr.

Appendix:
Roughly 90 percent of the 5.5 billion kilograms of toxic pollutant releases and transfers reported in North America in 2005 can be traced to just 30 substances from 15 industrial sectors across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
However, differences in national reporting requirements mean that these pollutants were not reported in all three countries (e.g., only 10 are reportable in Mexico, but 28 and 29 are reportable in Canada and US, respectively.
Across the three countries, facilities in 15 sectors (nine manufacturing and six non-manufacturing) reported the majority of all pollutant releases and transfers in 2005. Two sectors -- the chemicals and transportation equipment manufacturing sectors -- reported large quantities in all three countries.

Source:
Terry Collins
Commission for Environmental Cooperation