A report by the European Commission names GlaxoSmithKline, Atofina and
BASF among a handful of companies responsible for disproportionate
pollutant emissions in Europe, and says these companies may not be
ready to comply with imminent legislation.
The report, which reviews of the performance of the European Pollutant
Emission Register, concludes that a high proportion of industrial
pollution is caused by a small number of plants.
report also reveals that for most of the indirect and direct pollutants
to water, the UK, Italy, Germany France and Spain are the worst
The report suggests that the named “big polluters”
need to improve their environmental performance. It is unlikely that
these polluters will be in compliance with the 1996 Directive on
Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control, which comes into force in
Among the worst offenders is GlaxoSmithKline’s UK
operation. GSK currently accounts for 64.6% of Europe’s total of
dichloromethane (DCM) that is released into waterways.
its many applications, DCM is used for metal degreasing; industrial
paint stripping; aerosol propellants; solvent for plastics and blowing
agent for polyurethane foams. DCM can cause heart problems and skin and
Atofina of France accounts for 58.8%
of hexachlorobutadiene (HCBD) released into French waterways and 74.8%
of the total of tetrachloromethane (TCM) released into the air.
traces of HCBD have been found in drinking water sources, intake of the
chemical can also occur via air, food and soil. While direct research
involving humans has yet to be carried out, tests on rats have shown
HCBD to have cytotoxic and mutagenic effects on the liver, kidneys and
Tetrachloromethane is a volatile organic compound that is
currently regulated under the Montreal Protocol. In the past TCM was
produced in large quantities to make refrigerants and propellants for
aerosol cans and was commonly used as a dry cleaning agent, a
degreasing agent, a fire extinguisher and a pesticide.
uses are now banned, given that excessive exposure has adverse effects
on the brain, digestive system, eyes, kidney, liver and skin, and may
cause cancer. TCM is only used in some limited industrial applications.
of Germany is responsible for 44.4% of trichlorobenzene (TCB) released
into the air. The UK has recently reported a number of cases of
drinking water contamination by TCB.
The main use of
trichlorobenzene is in the chemical industry, particularly dye
manufacture. TCB was formerly used in the tropics as an insecticide
Excessive exposure to TCB can affect the
adrenal gland, digestive system, eye, kidney, liver, lung, nose, skin,
throat and thyroid gland. TCB is very toxic to aquatic life and may be
sufficiently volatile, persistent and bioaccumulative to move over very
The report says mercury, classified a
dangerous substance, is directly discharged into water mainly by the
chemical industry (49%) and the metal industry (19%). For mercury
emissions into the air, energy-generating industries are the biggest
polluters (31%), followed by the chemical industry (26%) and the metal
The report predicts an increase in the level of
ammonia emissions into the air for the current reporting cycle, given
that some member states were unable to report on their emissions from
pig and poultry farms. The current report reveals that at present,
2,780 pig and poultry farms are responsible for 76% of ammonia
emissions into the air.
Ammonia emissions are environmentally
significant for two reasons. First, they contribute to acid rain.
Second, concentrated ammonia deposits can raise local nitrogen levels.
This can result in aquatic algal blooms, while terrestrial
eutrophication can damage ecosystems that have developed on
nutrient-poor soil, resulting in loss of plant species. High local
concentrations of ammonia can also be damaging to human health.
European Commission is upgrading the current European Pollutant
Emission Register with the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register. The
PRTR will cover more than 90 substances released to air and water
providing details of emissions by industry and by country. The PRTR
will be in effect by 2009.
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