Chromium, neoprene, nitroalkanes, asbestos, arsenic – the list of barely-pronounceable, toxic substances and chemicals goes on and on and on. And worse, a majority of these toxins – many of which are byproducts of manufacturing processes conducted by companies to produce our plastics, our paints, our coatings, and our foams – get shot right up into our atmosphere at frighteningly high levels each and every year. They pollute the air and expose thousands of Americans to potential harm and disease.
This is no surprise. But what is, perhaps, is the common-ground history that many these large polluters share. Not only are they the country’s biggest present-day polluters, they have also been polluting the country – and the world – for whole generations with well-known carcinogens, including arsenic and asbestos.
Now, with more countries around the globe trending toward meaningful climate control measures, the tech industry has largely gotten better at creating pollution capturing and measuring technologies. How, then, are such new pieces of tech used? Well, for one, to create lists such as these, which publicly display the U.S.’s biggest polluters for all of the country to see – in an effort, hopefully, to hold these companies accountable for their reckless actions or, perhaps more accurately, their inactions.
Scientifically Speaking: How The Toxic 100 List Is Created
The Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst compiles annual data to create the toxic 100 air polluters index, which identifies 100 of the world’s largest corporations that release large of amounts of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and subsequently expose vulnerable populations to chronic human health risks.
Built on the data from the Toxins Release Inventory, an annual report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PERI creates a “Toxic Score” for each of the offending corporations. The score is calculated quite simply: by taking the pounds of toxic materials released by a company’s facility (or facilities), and multiplying that amount first by that particular toxin’s level of toxicity and then by population exposure.
(Pounds of Toxic Materials Released) x (Toxin’s Level of Toxicity) x (Population Exposure) = Overall Toxic Score
PERI’s most recent Toxic 100 Index is based off of the EPA’s 2010 data.
Without Further Ado, Here Are the U.S.’s 30 Biggest Polluters and Their Toxic Score:
- E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) – 7,086,303
- Bayer Group (Bayer AG) – 5,257,823
- Dow Chemical Company – 4,363,312
- ExxonMobil – 3,213,993
- BASF – 2,989,289
- LyondellBasell Industries – 2,954,294
- Renco Group – 2,803,506
- General Electric Company – 2,607,036
- Ineos Group – 2,399,202
- Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) – 1,700,682
- Phillips 66 Company – 1,387,682
- Eastman Chemical Co. – 1,378,348
- Koch Industries – 1,237,328
- Rio Tinto PLC – 1,190,964
- Praxair Inc. – 1,177,412
- Energy Transfer Partners – 1,170,881
- Tenneco Inc. – 1,166,498
- Allegheny Technologies – 1,066,498
- Occidental Petroleum Co. – 1,040,195
- Precision Castparts – 1,034,186
- Joy Global Inc. – 1,028,600
- Sony Corporation – 975,378
- Honeywell International – 953,378
- BP – 940,990
- Alliant Techsystems Inc. – 891,741
- Alcoa Inc. – 890,145
- American Electric Power – 886,420
- PPG Industries Inc. – 819,051
- United States Steel Corporation – 819,051
- Huntsman Corporation – 791,949
To see the entire list of 100 companies, click here.
Underlying Connections: Takeaways from PERI’s ‘Toxic 100’ Index
In observing the companies that make an appearance on the list, it’s easy to see that there are some undeniably shady connections to be made.
Not surprisingly, the companies that pollute the U.S. environment the most, also happen to be the biggest spenders when it comes to lobbying Congress. In fact, collectively, these chemical corporations – Dow Chemical, Koch Industries, DuPont, ExxonMobil – lobby our elected officials in Washington to the tune of over $200 Million annually. Why? So that they can keep their deadly chemicals in the cycle of commerce.
Their reasoning is simple: profit. These substances and chemicals, many of which can be poisonous and, ultimately, deadly (especially in large quantities), are cheap and, thus, great for the bottom line. And when billion-dollar companies have shareholders to answer to, perhaps nothing is more important than revenue. Regardless of how many people such chemicals and substances harm, certain companies like those above, don’t just have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, they rely on handcuffing industry regulation right where it is — lest they see a downturn in annual revenues.
More damning perhaps, is the knowledge that many of these companies listed in PERI’s Toxic Index also have a decades-long track record of defending their names in courts across the U.S.
Many of These Companies Knew They Were Poisoning Americans, but Did It Anyway
One doesn’t need to look far to see how long these companies have been defending their names in the courts. For a prime example, one need not look further than asbestos. Companies, such as those above, have known for decades that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. In fact, inhalation of just one asbestos fiber can lead to a number of deadly diseases, including asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs), lung cancer, and mesothelioma (a lethal cancer that affects the lining of one’s lungs). Yet, despite the fact that corporations knew about the risk that asbestos posed to their workers and to the general public, they decided to keep using the toxic mineral fiber in their manufacturing processes anyway.
Now, of course, the American public knows just how carcinogenic asbestos can be. And as a result, a majority of the companies named above in the Toxic Index, are – and have been – fending off asbestos lawsuits, for having poisoned American citizens for years and denying any wrongdoing.
And asbestos is just but one example of hundreds.
The Power of Knowledge
Should it be any surprise that some of the world’s largest companies are also the country’s biggest polluters? Is it any surprise that a majority of these companies have been tied to lawsuits for – literally – decades?
Perhaps not. But what is difficult for many to swallow is the fact that, collectively, these companies not only provide our gasoline and our power, they also make our toilet paper, our paper towels, our plastic cups, our storage containers, our paints, our insulation, our cell phone parts, etc. Worse still, their products seem vital to our way of everyday life; and with billion-dollar marketing and advertising campaigns, these offenders have made it that way. To make some of their products, companies poison and pollute – in large volumes – and they are allowed to continue such dangerous practices because they also find themselves in the pockets of our elected officials.
It’s a vicious cycle. A vast majority of these companies have made the list because of their wealth, which continues to grow. With their wealth, they’ve acquired power. Not shockingly, many of these companies got wealthy and powerful by, for one, taking advantage of the American public, and using cheaper, but more harmful chemicals and substances that pollute and are knowingly carcinogenic. Given that, it is important, then, not only to expose these companies – as the Toxic 100 list does – for what they really are, but to hold them accountable.
When these companies begin to pay, maybe then, the American public will be brought into the light; and the environment, as well as the products we consume, will be made safer. Let us all hope that that time comes soon; our lives depend on it.