Tracking Toxic Chemicals: The Value of Materials Accounting Data
What are Materials Accounting Data?
New Jerseyans have access to a unique information resource containing data, called materials accounting data, submitted by major toxic chemical using plants across the state. With this data, citizens, communities and government officials can identify chemical transportation, storage and usage patterns and spot areas of concern. They can initiate dialogue with plants aimed at achieving better practices and or reduced or improved use of troublesome chemicals. Reduced or improved use can lead to reduced exposures and associated hazards to the community, workers, and the environment.
The US Environmental Protection Agency requires industries nationwide to report the quantities of toxic chemicals generated as waste and either transferred off-site or released into the environment to the federal Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). However, New Jersey's material accounting data provides a much more complete picture of the chemicals moving in and out of facilities. Massachusetts is the only other state with a similar program.
Materials accounting data identify and quantify toxic chemical "inputs" and "outputs" to an industrial facility. The quantity of inputs should approximately equal the quantity of outputs for any given chemical in any given year.
Materials Accounting Data Can Tell Us:
Overall Trends in Toxic Chemical Uses
The use of industrial toxic chemicals increased by 633 million pounds from 1991 and 1994, climbing to 13.3 billion pounds, an increase of about 5 percent.
Although the total quantity of toxic industrial chemicals used in New Jersey increased between 1991 and 1994, the use of chemical classes of special concern in New Jersey decreased as follows: bioaccumulators, 33 percent; carcinogens, 5 percent, chloroorganics; 14 percent; haloorganics,16 percent; heavy metals, 18 percent; and ozone depleters, 64 percent.
Which chemicals and in what quantity are transported and stored in New Jersey
Toxic chemicals entering NJ facilities in 1994 totaled 7.6 billion pounds, 72 times the amount leaving the facilities as waste (Federal TRI data only shows the smaller waste number).
1.7 billion pounds of carcinogens (cancer causing substances) were shipped to and from NJ facilities in 1994, 219 times the amount transferred as waste (and reported to the TRI).
The amount of toxic chemicals stored on-site at New Jersey facilities in 1994 was ten times the amount transferred or released off-site (1.1 billion vs. 116.9 million pounds).
Whether plants are accounting accurately for their chemical uses
A 115,000 pound discrepancy in the data provided by the Johnson and Johnson Consumer Products Facility in New Brunswick, NJ for ethylene oxide could not have been discovered using TRI data alone. Only materials accounting data provides total inflow and outflows for toxic chemicals which should balance.
How efficiently plants are using chemicals and trends in efficiency
Efficiency can be calculated, for example, by looking at what percentage of the chemicals used are reported as waste. Using a chemical more efficiently during manufacture means that less of that chemical ends up as waste. Waste generated must be handled, transported, and managed through recycling, energy recovery, treatment or disposal. Each of these management options has its risks of exposure to workers, the community, and the environment. Materials accounting data can shed light on those regions, sectors, facilities, or chemicals which are associated with improved efficiency in toxic chemical use and those which are good candidates for targeting by technical assistance and advocacy programs.
Overall, industrial facilities in New Jersey appear to have increased the efficiency with which they use and produce toxic chemicals. Although chemical use increased by five percent between 1991 and 1994, waste generation increased two percent (to 466 million pounds.) That is, less waste was generated per pound of chemical used in 1994 than there was in 1991.
But for a group of chemicals which by the nature of their reported use should not end up in the final product (such as solvents, catalysts, and other processing aids), New Jersey facilities appear to have become less efficient from 1991 to 1994.
In 1993, the last year for which such data are available, New Jersey facilities reported reducing 4.4 percent of non-product output through source reduction, the highest percentage source reduction reported in New Jersey this decade
Who can use Materials accounting Data?
The data which industrial facilities report to the state can be accessed and used by anyone, though some familiarity with computer-based data management is needed. These data allow private citizens, businesses and public leaders to acquire the basic knowledge they need to move New Jersey toward much safer use of toxics.
Citizens and Workers
People living and working in communities with industrial facilities can gain a complete picture of reportable toxic chemicals moving in and out of a particular facility as well as what chemicals are stored on-site. Knowing about the transportation and storage of toxic chemicals in a community is important for those concerned with potential risks to their own health, their children's health, and the health of environment due to potential accidents during transport or at storage sites. This information will allow employees, residents and grassroots organizations to have a more informed dialogue with industry and government officials regarding the reason for accidents that have occurred, the safety measures they have in place, and plans for improvement.
Companies often collect materials accounting data for each production process in order to be able to report facility-level data required by NJ law. These process level materials accounting data are essential for company officials to identify opportunities for waste prevention and increased efficiency. In some cases, companies can compare an individual facility's performance with their other facilities or their competitors'. This data can also be used in planning pollution prevention.
The data can be used by government to identify those facilities which are the most efficient, the largest consumers/transporters of toxic chemicals, or the biggest generators of waste. This can be used to acknowledge and reward good performance and to priority regions, facilities, chemicals for targeting by technical assistance programs as well as giving New Jersey evidence of any increasing efficiency from year to year.
Organizations committed to working towards a toxic free environment, resource conservation, and health issues need to be aware of the chemicals which are being used and stored within their area of operation as well as how they are being used. Materials accounting data not only provides this information but also can be used by these groups to evaluate usage from year to year. This will give environmental leaders a more complete picture with regards to toxics, allowing them to be fully informed when meeting with business and government leaders.
Questions which can be answered using materials accounting data:
What toxic chemicals are transported in and out of facilities in your county in the greatest quantities?
Which individual facilities are responsible for transporting the greatest quantities of toxic chemicals?
Which facilities in your county use (transport?) (store?) the greatest number and greatest quantity of carcinogens and bioaccumulators?
Has a given facility in your area become more or less efficient in its use of toxic chemicals over the last five years?
How does a given facility compare to similar facilities in NJ in terms of how efficiently it uses toxic chemicals?
A National Model
Currently there are two federal proposals to use New Jersey's materials accounting data as a model for national toxics reporting. A national database of this information could give industry leaders, government agencies, environmental groups and citizens a clear picture of the movement of toxic chemicals throughout commerce in their communities. This will allow pollution prevention efforts to be better measured and promoted, encouraging environmentally and economically sustainable industry as well as identifying new ways to avoid harmful exposures.
INFORM has published several books on toxics including:
Tracking Toxics Chemicals: The Value of Materials Accounting Data, Mark H. Dorfman and Marian Wise (1997, 80 pp.,).
Risks on Record: An Overview of TSCA's Substantial Risk Reporting System with Bulletins on Selected Chemicals, Carolyn A. Nunley (1996, 45 pp.,).
Toxics Watch (1995, 816 pp.,).
Preventing Industrial Toxic Hazards: A Guide for Communities, Marian Wise and Lauren Kenworthy (1993, 208 pp.,).
Environmental Dividends: Cutting More Chemical Wastes, Mark H. Dorfman, Warren R. Muir, Ph. D., and Catherine Miller, Ph.D. (1992, 288 pp.,).
Please call Denise Jaworski for purchasing these older titles.