Nearly a million pounds of toxic wastes are shipped into Utah each year - but go unreported to the public because of a loophole in federal disclosure laws, according to estimates by a coalition of 70 environmental and health groups.

And they say Utah companies also ship out at least an estimated 88,000 pounds of similar toxics a year without being forced to report that they generate them.That's according to a report released last week titled, "The `Recycling' Loophole in the Toxics-Release Inventory: Out of Site, Out of Mind," funded by such groups as the Environmental Defense Fund, Citizen Action and the Industrial Pollution Prevention Project.

It said companies are normally required to report to the Environmental Protection Agency any toxics they release to the land, air or sea. The EPA in turn each year discloses the information publicly because of a law passed after the Bhopal, India, chemical spill disaster that killed thousands.

But environmental groups said a loophole exists because companies do not have to report toxics shipped off site for "recycling" or "reuse."

They say 90 percent of such "recycled" toxics are merely burned in cement kilns to dispose of them - which they say should not be considered recycling or reuse. They say the burning also releases potentially harmful toxics, such as heavy metals. Companies nationwide reported 200 million pounds of such toxic shipments in the first year of required public disclosure in 1987 but have since stopped reporting most shipments because of the loophole.

"The sad irony is that many companies are inappropriately claiming credit for preventing industrial pollution when using the reporting loophole," said David Allen of the National Toxic Campaign Fund.

"Having disappeared from the chemical right-to-know reporting system, the wastes appear not to have been generated. EPA is providing opportunities for companies to systematically poison people under the guise of industrial pollution prevention."

"The EPA is allowing industry to play a toxic shell game with the public's health," said Dr. Ann Maest with the Environmental Defense Fund. "Allowing companies to avoid public disclosure by calling their waste fuel is nothing more than linguistic detoxification. Toxic waste by any other name is still toxic waste."

Paul Orum, coordinator of the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know, added, "EPA created the recycling loophole and EPA should close it. EPA's top priority should be preventing toxic pollution, not preventing the public from knowing about toxic pollution."

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(Additional information)

Shipped into Utah (1987)

Toxic shipments in and out of Utah

Shipped into Utah (1987)

- 979,467 pounds: 920,463 pounds to the U.S. Pollution Control facility at Lake Point, Tooele County; 59,004 to Ekotek, Inc., Salt Lake City. All was reported used as fuel.

Included:

- 820 pounds of cancer-causing toxics

- 17,384 pounds of developmental or reproductive toxics

- 10,760 pounds of neurotoxics

Shipped out of Utah (1987)

- 88,630 pounds

Included:

- 820 pounds of cancer-causing toxics

- 17,384 pounds of developmental or reproductive toxics

- 10,760 pounds of neurotoxics

The companies making the 1987 shipments were: Varian/Eimac in Salt Lake County, 53,300 pounds; Litton of Salt Lake City, 12,790 pounds; Hercules of Salt Lake and Davis counties, 16,190 pounds; Teleflex Defense Systems of Utah County, 4,254 pounds; Kimberly-Clark of Weber County, 1,500 pounds; and Allied Aftermarket Division of Davis County, 596 pounds.