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Where’s The Harm – From Materials Processing?

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Chemical processing: Chemical companies produce more than 1,000 chemicals that are used in the electronics industry, exposing workers and surrounding communities to unsafe pollutants in the air and drinking water.

Plastics processing: Processing petroleum into plastics creates dangerous exposures for workers and for the surrounding communities. The process of refining petroleum into plastics exposes workers and residents to hormone disrupting chemicals, including phthalates, through air pollution or leaks into their groundwater.  In addition, individuals working in facilities that process polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for plastic electronic components have an increased likelihood of developing diseases including angiosarcoma of the liver, brain cancer, lung cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and cirrhosis of the liver. Families living in neighborhoods surrounding the facilities are also exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxin emissions that come from the plants.

Smelting and refining: The smelting and refining process of metals such as copper, nickel, and aluminum used in electronics pollutes the air with oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, components of smog and acid rain.[i]

Resources

New report on women plastics workers:
Chemical Exposures of Women Workers in the Plastics Industry with Particular Reference to Breast Cancer and Reproductive Hazards,” NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, December 6, 2012.
This article explores occupational exposures in producing plastics and health risks to workers, particularly women, who make up a large part of the workforce. The review demonstrates that workers are exposed to chemicals that have been identified as mammary carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals, and that the work environment is heavily contaminated with dust and fumes. Consequently, plastics workers have a body burden that far exceeds that found in the general public.

[i]Farrell, Leanne, Payal Sampat, RadhikaSarin, and Keith Slack. “Dirty Metals: Mining, Communities and the Environment.” Earthworks and Oxfam, 2004.