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Entries in asthma triggers (2)


Shell Oil To Pay Over $115 Million To Reduce Polluting Emissions From Its Houston Refinery

Shell’s Deer Park Refinery, Texas. Photo courtesy of Roy Luck.

Shell Oil Co. and its affiliated partners have agreed to resolve allegations against the refinery and chemical plant in Deer Park, Texas, just outside of Houston.

They are accused of improperly operating 12 steam-assisted flaring devices in a way that caused excess volatile organic compounds, including benzene and other hazardous pollutants to be emitted into the atmosphere, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To understand things a little better, flare stacks are gas combustion devices used primarily to burn off flammable gases. These flare stacks are used largely in industrial facilities such as petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and natural gas processing plants. They are also commonly used within oil and gas production sites that have oil wells, gas wells, offshore oil and gas rigs, and landfills.

In this settlement, Shell and its partner Deer Park Refining LP, have agreed spend over $115 million in efforts to control air pollution from its industrial flares and other processes, as well as paying about $2.6 million in civil penalties as part of resolving alleged violations against the Clean Air Act.

Specifically, Shell Oil operates the refinery, which is owned by Deer Park Refining. Shell Chemical LP owns and operates the chemical plant.

Shell is expected to spend about $100 million on new technologies to reduce air pollution from the industrial flares. The EPA explains that, “Improper operation of an industrial flare can send hundreds of tons of hazardous air pollutants into the air.”

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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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