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The Observer
Company wants emissions rules relaxed for PVCs

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Local News - Thursday, July 05, 2007 @ 16:00

Local residents might be interested to know that a company in the Chemical Valley wants the emission rules relaxed on vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen and a truly nasty chemical.

Royal Polymers Limited has asked Ontario's Environment Ministry for an "alternative standard" at its Sarnia facility that would increase by 30 times the level of emissions currently regarded as safe.

The current standard for vinyl chloride at Royal Polymers is one microgram per cubic metre averaged over a 24 hour period.

If the company gets the green light, the Sarnia site would be allowed to continue to discharge up to an average of 30 micrograms per cubic metre, as measured at its fencelines.

Why does Royal Polymers want a 30-fold increase?

According to information the company filed with the ministry and which is posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights website, 30 micrograms "is the minimum level that is technically feasible for this facility at this time."

That conclusion, the company added, is based on a review of available pollution control methods and standards in other jurisdictions.

Vinyl chloride is a recognized cancer-causing agent. It is also a suspected cardiovascular and blood toxicant, developmental toxicant, gastrointestinal and liver toxicant, neurotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, respiratory toxicant and a skin and sense organ toxicant. Children are most susceptible to the impacts of vinyl chloride.

What does all that mean? Studies have shown that exposure to vinyl chloride at young ages can lead to many life-altering illnesses at various stages of life. Studies published recently show that the odds of central nervous system birth defects decrease the farther away from a vinyl chloride polymerization facility the mothers lived. Higher ratios are found in mothers who lived near the facilities. The studies, done in New Jersey, West Virginia and Shawinigan, Quebec, all pointed in the same direction.

"PVC plastics are associated with health effects, including immune system damage, cancer and hormone disruption," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence Canada.

In its report on PVC, the United States Green Building Council states, "PVC is consistently among the worst materials for human health impacts"

And so it goes. Even corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Apple have committed to eliminating PVC products from their stores and products.

Ontario sets air quality standards based on values that protect against health and environmental effects. The regulations also include a risk-based process for determining site-specific alternative air standards.

I believe the risk has already been established and the critical issue is the safety of an entire community.

Public comments on Royal Polymers' application should be directed to the following contact person: Cathy Grant, Engineering Specialist Air Pollution Control Standards Development Branch, 40 St. Clair Ave. West, 7th floor, Toronto, Ont., M4V 1P5, by phone at 416-327-6600, fax at 416-327-2936 or by contacting your member of provincial parliament.

Ron Plain is a former member of the Aamjiwnaang environment committee.

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