EPA Issues New Rules to Reduce Airborne Toxins From Chemical Plants

Companies will be required to conduct 'fenceline monitoring' aimed at spotting dangerous chemical leaks
EPA Issues New Rules to Reduce Airborne Toxins From Chemical Plants
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TUESDAY, April 9, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- New rules issued Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency are aimed at reducing airborne toxins for people living near certain factories.

The new rules "will significantly reduce toxic air pollution from chemical plants, including ethylene oxide [EtO] and chloroprene," the agency said in a statement. "Once implemented, the rule will reduce both EtO and chloroprene emissions from covered processes and equipment by nearly 80 percent."

Exposure to both chemicals has long been linked to higher risks for lymphoma, leukemia, breast cancer, and liver cancer. Other chemical emissions affected by the new rules include benzene, 1,3-butadiene, ethylene dichloride, and vinyl chloride, all of which have also been linked to increased cancer risk.

"In addition, the rule will reduce smog-forming volatile organic compounds by 23,700 tons a year," the EPA said. Many of these chemicals are emitted into the air by about 200 chemical plants across the country that make synthetic organic chemicals or a range of polymers and resins. Factories that create such airborne emissions also tend to cluster in certain areas of the United States, with lower-income Americans and people of color often living in close proximity.

Key to the new rules is what is known as "fenceline monitoring," which requires companies to track and report levels of certain toxins that may be leaking from their plants. These fenceline rules cover "processes and equipment that make, use, store, or emit EtO, chloroprene, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, ethylene dichloride, or vinyl chloride," the agency said.

The deadline for compliance with the new rules ranges between 90 days (from the date rules go into effect) to two years, depending on the preparation time companies need to comply, the EPA said.

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