The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the final version of its standards governing emissions from facilities that produce polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
and copolymers. The standards come after a 74-day public comment period and two public hearings the EPA held on the proposal before the agency issued the final rule, which was proposed in April 2011.
The new, more stringent regulation expands the number of materials that manufacturing facilities must control, and reduces the amount of pollutants that can be released. It replaces the previous rule for larger emitting PVC production facilities issued in July 2002. The previous rule set an emission limit only for vinyl chloride, and required that plants controlled for and measured that material to represent other air pollutants.
The EPA has finallzed its emissions standards for the production of PVC resins used in a variety of products, such as this gray Schedule 40 PVC plastic tubing used as a conduit for electric wires.
The new rule sets emission limits and work practice standards for total organic air toxins. It also sets emission limits and work practice standards for three other air pollutants: vinyl chloride, chlorinated di-benzo dioxins and furans, and hydrogen chloride. The rule defines PVC production as excluding chemical manufacturing process units that produce vinyl chloride as the monomer, or other raw materials that are used in the PVC polymerization process.
The EPA's new standards aim to reduce harmful air emissions to improve air quality and protect human health in communities where production facilities are located. "Exposure to toxic air pollutants, like those emitted from PVC facilities, can cause respiratory problems and other serious health issues, and can increase the risk of developing cancer," the agency said in a press release. "In particular, children are known to be more sensitive to the cancer risks posed by inhaling vinyl chloride, one of the known carcinogens emitted from PVC facilities."
I live in a superfund area. 200 years of copper mining and now we are known for leaching heavy metals into Lake Superior. I shoud say we are ex- superfund for the moment until they discover something else.
I know we will survive, like Dave indicates, but this article got me in a down mood.
ChasChas, I understand your equation. But I agree with Dave. Chemicals can kill people just as cars can, but since they take longer and work more subtly than a car crash, their effects are easier to ignore or wish away. It's unfortunate that multiple lawsuits had to occur in both cases for government to take notice and that government has had to force manufacturers to take action. It's also unfortunate that, since companies such as the ones Dave describes did not plan ahead or take responsibility, they left more than chemical problems in their wake and negatively affected far more than their own profits.
In Waukegan, Illinois, where I live, industry was thriving 40 years ago. Then, in 1975, high concentrations of PCBs were discovered in the harbor. The PCBs came from hydraulic fluid used in die casting machines, which was apparently disposed of improperly for a a period of several decades. A few years later, in 1982, high concentrations of asbestos were found in the air. The asbestos came from a waste pile at an insulation plant. Both became Superfund sites. Ultimately, the companies involved went bankrupt, and nearly all of the manufacturing facilities along the lakefront closed down, taking thousands of jobs with them. The Superfund sites are still not fully cleaned up, and much of the lakefront is an empty wasteland. The lesson here is that companies ignore environmental problems at their own risk.
I think that, just as car companies have to ensure their products are safe and factor in the costs to do so as part of the cost of doing business, that materials companies have to do the same thing. The costs must have seemed onerous to car companies back in the 70s when safety issues first arose in a big way. It's taken much longer, and a lot more money spent on research, for similar issues to get dealt with on the federal level for plastics and chemicals companies. A major shift is occurring, and it will no doubt be painful for awhile.
Sounds like a good example of keeping both sides appeased. It would be nice to see more of that around some of these environmental initiatives where the goal is right, but sometimes at an onerous cost for business.
I think Dave summarized it well. EPA did do due diligence and conducted some lengthy research over at least a couple of years. So industry isn't happy of course, but they can't complain about a lack of fairness. It's also important to note that this ruling came after several lawsuits on behalf of people who live near some of these plants regarding health concerns. Part of EPA's research was conducting hearings in these locales.
@Beth: The Vinyl Institute, an industry group, is reviewing the new rule. However, their intitial comments seem to be mostly positive. It looks like EPA took industry's concerns into account when formulating this new rule, although industry didn't get everything it wanted.
I applaud the efforts of the EPA and whatever other governing body that pushed through emissions standards like this one meant to protect the environment and people's health. I imagine, though, given the high costs of compliance that you outlined in the piece, Ann, that there will be a lot of grumbling and complaining from the PVC companies that have to make investments in infrastructure and resources to meet the new standards. Any sense as to how this mandate is being received?
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