Engineering News

EH&S Performance A Bright Spot for Chemistry Business
February 23, 2009

Many chemical engineers are involved in environmental, health and safety (EH&S) issues. An annual survey of American Chemistry Council (ACC) members shows that spending on EH&S programs and projects by basic chemical and specialty chemical producers in the U.S. amounted to $10.3 billion in 2007, equivalent to 2.8% of sales. In recent years, spending as a share of shipments has declined, largely the result of more-rapid gains in revenues due to higher prices.

The period since the early 1970s has witnessed increas ing gross annual operating costs (depreciation, labor, materials and supplies, services, etc.) for pollution abatement and control at manufacturing facilities. These operating costs totaled $4.8 billion and accounted for 46% of the total EH&S spending in 2007.

In addition to end-of-pipe pollution abatement, chemistry companies also spent about $1.1 billion on Superfund and other hazardous-waste site remediation in 2007, accounting for 10% of EH&S spending.

During the past two decades, American chemistry businesses have implemented extensive programs to reduce emissions of the many types of materials that contribute to air, water, and land pollution. Compliance with the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other legislation and environmental regulations has necessitated capital expenditures for pollution abatement and control that have totaled about $54 billion since 1970, including $2 billion spent in 2007.

In addition to its environmental protection activities, the business of chemistry has also achieved a remarkable record of worker safety - much better than manufacturing as a whole, as well as other sectors of the economy. This record has continually improved since World War II, largely as a result of the elimination of job hazards and the industry's initiatives in implementing effective safety programs. Basic and specialty chemical companies spend about $2.4 billion per year on improving worker health and safety. These activities accounted for 24% of EH&S spending in 2007.

The results have been phenomenal. Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the business of chemistry has illness and injury rates that are one-half those of manufacturing as a whole. Workers are safer in the chemistry business than in retailing. Furthermore, ACC members have illness and injury rates less than onehalf those of the business of chemistry as a whole, and less than one-quarter those of all of manufacturing.

The chemistry business has contributed much to the success of national environmental performance goals. When it comes to protecting the environment, what counts is performance - indeed, performance is the "bottom line" of protecting the environment, which is good business, and good for business. And in this manner, the chemistry business has provided leadership through its strong performance. For example, since 1988, toxic releases are down 73%, while production increased 50%. These results, too, are notable - just what one would expect from an environmentally responsible enterprise.

Source: Chemical Engineering Progress

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