Chemical, Medical Companies Top List Of Worst U.S. Air Polluters

Every day, thousands of companies release emissions that poison our atmosphere, not to mention our soil and water. Protected by regulation loopholes and money-grubbing politicians, these companies rake in billions in profit while directly contributing to the sickness and deaths of millions of Americans.

The Toxic 100 is an initiative led by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. It seeks to track and catalog the worst polluters in a number of categories. Earlier this week, PERI released its Toxic 100 Air Polluters, and surprisingly, coal, oil, and gas companies weren’t among the top five.

toxic 100 air polluters

Image via Gavin Schaefer

The Toxic 100 Air Polluters index is based on air releases of hundreds of distinct chemicals from tens of thousands of industrial facilities across the United States.

“We assess not just how many pounds of pollutants are released, but which are the most toxic and how many people are at risk,” said said Professor James Boyce, co-director of PERI’s Corporate Toxics Information Project, in a press release. People have a right to know about toxic hazards to which they are exposed. Legislators need to understand the effects of pollution on their constituents.”

The top five air polluters among large corporations (click on the name to see a list of toxins emitted, with amounts):

  1. Precision Castparts
  2. DuPont
  3. Biomet
  4. The Bayer Group
  5. Dow Chemicals

“In making this information available, we are building on the achievements of the right-to-know movement,” explains Professor Michael Ash, co-Director of the Corporate Toxics Information Project, in the same press release. “Our goal is to engender public participation in environmental decision-making, and to help residents translate the right to know into the right to clean air.”

Although fossil fuel companies managed to stay out of the top five this year, they weren’t far behind. ExxonMobil was #6, ConocoPhillips came in at #13, Occidental Petroleum was #21, and good ole’ BP was #25. Other notables include Koch Industries at #15, Sony Corp. at #23, and Alcoa Inc. at #27.

The rankings take into account not only the quantity of releases, but also the toxicity of chemicals, transport factors such as prevailing winds and height of smokestacks, and the number of people exposed.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog