Persistent perils, dubious distinction 

Environmentalists recently released a report ranking the Detroit-based Allied Signal Inc., No. 1 in the state -- and fifth in the nation -- for releasing some of the most harmful substances known: persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs).

PBTs, which include mercury, lead, dioxin, and other substances that build up in human tissue, have been linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems.

The Public Interest Research Group in Michigan (PIRGIM) and the National Environmental Trust/Michigan issued the report, "Poisoning Our Future: The Dangerous Legacy of Persistent Toxic Chemicals," in November. The groups looked at 31 of the most harmful substances reported in the 1996 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) by the Environmental Protection Agency, the most current and complete data available, and rated companies based on amounts emitted.

According to the report, Michigan ranks third in the country in the release of non-metal pollutants studied and Allied Signal, Inc. is one reason why, said PIRGIM campaign director Brian Imus.

The report shows that the company, which uses coal residue to produce tar for driveways and roofs, released 110,248 pounds of non-metal PBTs in the air in 1996.

Allied Signal, Inc. spokesman Tom Crane called the report misleading. " Labeling our Detroit facility a polluter based on the publicly available figures contained in the report is a completely false characterization," he said.

He said the company has not exceeded its air quality emissions permits and since 1990 has invested $2.4 million in environmental control systems.

The TRI data used for the report is public information. Each year the EPA requires industries to report the amount of toxic substances released in the air, water and land. The EPA also requires companies to report toxic substances manufactured or used when the amounts exceed 25,000 and 10,000 pounds per year, respectively.

At the end this month, the EPA is expected to propose that the TRI reporting thresholds be lowered, said Imus. PIRGIM officials hope the organization's report will persuade the public and President Clinton to support the lower thresholds.

"It is a proposed rule making that Clinton has to back and there is a comment period," said Imus. "We want to demonstrate that this is the tip of toxic iceberg and we want to show that there is more out there that is not required to be reported."

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