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As part of an initiative to combat Climate change, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently gave Chevron Refinery the green light to create fuel from discarded plastics. The aim was to offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional petroleum fuels. However, agency records obtained by ProPublica and The Guardian reveal that one of the fuels could emit air Pollution so toxic that one in four people exposed to it over a lifetime could develop cancer.
This risk is 250,000 times greater than the level typically considered acceptable by the EPA division that approves new chemicals. This revelation has sparked widespread outrage, with many experts and environmentalists condemning the EPA for allowing the use of such a dangerous fuel. In response, an EPA spokesperson said that the agency’s lifetime cancer risk calculation is “a very conservative estimate with ‘high uncertainty’,” but the government had erred on the side of caution in calculating the high risk.
The fuel is made from discarded plastics, and although there is no mention of this in the press release or on the EPA website, an agency spokesperson said that the initiative also covers fuels made from waste. While the program cleared new fuels made from plants, it also signed off on fuels made from plastics, even though they are petroleum-based and contribute to the release of planet-warming greenhouse gases.
Although the program approved 34 fuels so far, with 16 being made from waste, the agency would not reveal how many of those fuels are made from plastic, citing confidentiality. Additionally, none of the waste-based fuels had to meet specific criteria related to their biological origin or the amount by which they reduced greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based fuels, as required under the EPA’s Renewable Fuel Standard.
In response to the recent findings, environmentalists have criticized Chevron’s move to make fuel from discarded plastic. Less than 6% of plastic is recycled in the US, and much of the rest ends up in the oceans, killing marine mammals and polluting the world. The release of cancer-causing Pollution is just one of several significant problems that have plagued attempts to convert discarded plastic into new products.
This revelation of the potential cancer risk associated with these fuels highlights the importance of increased regulation and transparency. The EPA should require lab testing and air monitoring to reduce the release of cancer-causing pollutants, especially as those who will be most impacted are low-income communities and people of color.
As individuals, we can also take action by reducing our use of plastics and supporting businesses that use environmentally friendly alternatives. We must also hold companies and government agencies accountable for their actions and demand they prioritize the safety and well-being of our communities and the environment. Only then can we truly make a positive impact on the world and combat Climate change effectively.
In conclusion, while initiatives like the one launched by the EPA are essential in combating Climate change, they must not come at the expense of public health. The EPA must take a more cautious and transparent approach to avoid such risks in the future. As consumers, we must also make a conscious effort to reduce our reliance on plastics and Support businesses that prioritize sustainability. By working together, we can create a more sustainable future and protect the health of our communities and the planet.
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