Utah industries produce up to 7.3 times more toxic chemicals than they report through public disclosure laws as wastes, two environmental groups said Thursday.
Much of them are consumed in industrial processes or made into new products, but still present danger to the public as do the reported toxic wastes, according to the National Environmental Law Center and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.However, disclosure laws only require that toxics released to the air, water or ground or transferred as waste be reported to the government.
"Toxic releases are just the tip of the iceberg," said William Ryan, policy director for the law center. "Lurking underneath is the far larger amount of toxic chemical manufacturers produce and use.
"These toxics pose hazards not only when released to the environment, but on our roads and railways and in our work places and homes."
Estimates from the groups said industries in Utah produce somewhere between 100 million and 1 billion pounds of "production and use" toxics a year - up to 7.3 times the 137 million pounds they reported as emissions and waste in 1988.
Nationally, industries are estimated to produce at least 50 times more toxic chemical than are reported as wastes and emissions.
"Being told about releases but not use is like is like being told there is smoke from a fire but not about the fire itself. The fire is where the greater danger is," said Carolyn Hartmann, environmental attorney for the Public Interest Research Group.
Rep. Gerry Sikorski, D-Minn., who wrote the law that forced disclosure of toxic wastes, said the new estimates underscore "the need for even broader and more comprehensive right-to-know legislation. Every American has a fundamental right to know more about who is using and releasing toxic chemicals in their neighborhoods."
The two groups also said the toxic chemicals produced and used in the greatest amounts nationally include sulfuric acid, ethylene, ammonia and chlorine - with known cancer-causing agents benzene and vinyl chloride in the top ten.
They said effects associated with one or more of those top chemicals include cancer; diseases of the liver and kidney; reproductive system hazards; and severe environmental damage.