Report: Toxic Free Communities

Airborne Toxic Pollution And Health

Released by: NJPIRG Law & Policy Center

Outsiders often mock New Jersey as a toxic state. Unfortunately, our research has found that there is more than a little truth in this critique. Each year, New Jersey industries release millions of pounds of toxic chemicals into our air, water and soil. These chemicals cause cancer, developmental problems, and reproductive problems, and are suspected to cause a range of other health effects, such as neurological and respiratory problems.

This report focuses on releases to New Jersey’s air of carcinogens and developmental toxins. In reviewing airborne releases of toxic pollution in New Jersey, we have reached three conclusions. First, industrial facilities continue to release enormous volumes of chemicals that cause cancer and developmental problems. For example, in 2005, New Jersey industrial facilities released 398,939 pounds of airborne carcinogens and 432,119 pounds of airborne developmental toxins.

Second, the airborne toxins are a problem statewide. The seven counties with the highest emissions of airborne carcinogens and airborne developmental toxins included counties from north, south and central New Jersey. The top three counties for carcinogens were Gloucester, Middlesex and Union. The top three for developmental toxins were Gloucester, Middlesex and Salem.

Third, safer alternatives exist for many of these chemicals. For example, safer alternatives are commercially available for dichloromethane, which accounted for 26% of all airborne carcinogen emissions in New Jersey in 2005, and toluene, which accounted for 72% of all airborne developmental toxin emissions.

Based on these findings, NJPIRG makes the following policy recommendations:

1. New Jersey should require mandatory toxics use reduction to reduce or even eliminate the health risks posed by toxic pollution.

2. New Jersey should invest in toxics use reduction by making grants available for smaller businesses to adopt toxics use reduction approaches and by considering making substantial funding available for toxics use reduction, along the lines of Massachusetts’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute.

3. New Jersey should make its toxics use and release database available on the internet.

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