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Entries in air pollution (2)

Thursday
May102012

A Sneak Peek at the Environmental Working Group’s Household Cleaners Hall of Shame

While we know that most household cleaners can be dangerous – which is why we put the safety latches on the cabinets to keep babies out– we may not realize just how dangerous they are even when properly used.

Image courtesy of enviroblog.org.

These days a lot of greenwashing (labeling products as natural) and other safety claims are made in advertisements to sell products by putting consumers’ minds at ease. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a consumer advocacy non-profit group, decided to take a look at these claims and found some frightening results.

Jane Houlihan, EWG senior vice president for research and co-author of the EWG Cleaners Hall of Shame, said that, “Cleaning your home can come at a high price with cancer-causing chemicals in the air; having an asthma attack from fumes; or getting serious skin burns from an accidental spill.”

“Almost any ingredient is legal and almost none of them are labeled, leaving families at risk,” she added.

This Cleaners Hall of Shame is a preview of a more comprehensive EWG Cleaners Database project that is due for release in fall 2012.

Stock photo.

The current report defines greenwashing as cleaners being labeled non-toxic, green, or safe, while containing hazardous ingredients.

Among the worst offenders is Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner, which the EWG says is labeled non-toxic and biodegradable, but contains the solvent 2-butoxyethanol that can irritate eyes and if absorbed through the skin, can damage red blood cells.

“Worse, the company website instructs the user to dilute the product significantly for even the heaviest cleaning tasks. Yet it comes in a spray bottle that implies it should be sprayed full-strength. Such use would result in higher exposure (and risk),” said the report.

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Monday
Jan162012

Refinery To Pay $12 Million In Fines For The Willful Release Of Toxins Into Louisiana’s Air

After years of spewing out toxic chemicals into Louisiana’s air, threatening the health of its employees and surrounding local residents, Pelican Refining Co. is finally being made to pay for its crimes.

Pelican’s refinery at Lake Charles, La. Photo from the U.S. EPA.

Pelican Refining pleaded guilty to clean air violations and obstruction of justice charges in federal court, and is now being sentenced to pay $12 million in felony violations.

The violations relate to the company’s crude oil and asphalt refining facility located in Lake Charles, La. Pelican signed a court document called a “joint factual statement,” where the company agreed that all of the allegations were a “true and accurate statement” of their “criminal conduct.”

Among the most glaring and specific violations of the company is the handling a damaged floating roof on one of its tanks.

The Pelican refinery stored crude oil in tanks with floating roofs that go up and down with the volume of the petroleum inside the tank. Floating roofs have seals around the perimeter. The purpose of a sealed floating roof is to prevent pollutants, including volatile organic compounds and hydrogen sulfide from escaping.

In 2005 and 2006, the Pelican refinery processed sour crude that had high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide.

Hydrogen sulfide is a highly toxic and flammable gas inherent to sour crude. It is colorless, but has the smell of rotten eggs at low concentrations. At higher concentrations, it paralyzes the sense of smell, so that its odor is no longer perceived.

At very high concentrations, it paralyzes the respiratory center of the brain so that the exposed individual stops breathing, losses consciousness, and dies unless removed from exposure and resuscitated.

“Nearby residents complained to Pelican Refining Co. and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) about odors emanating from the Pelican Refinery,” according to court documentation.

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