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New limits for chemical releases into the air: An ongoing challenge

air pollution plume.jpg
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Distant smokestack plume, illustrating how far air pollution can drift from one source.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) is proposing new limits on air emissions of five chemicals.

There are more than 80,000 chemicals used by business and industry. Only a small fraction of them, fewer than 1,300, have been screened for toxicity by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or EGLE. So, the regulators have to prioritize what the screen.

“If we find that we're looking at the same chemicals over and over again, it gives us the ability to say, hey, you know, we need to develop a screening level for this chemical. You know, a lot of businesses are using it. We should have a health protective value available,” said Doreen Lehner, an air quality toxicologist with the Air Quality Diversion at EGLE.

She says Michigan has a small staff, but they’re evaluating chemicals regularly.

“We’ll go through all the available toxicity information to try to find the best study and develop a level at which the public will be protected, but the company can still produce their product.”

EGLE Air Toxics.JPG
Graham, Lester
EGLE Air Quality Division
The current list of chemicals that have been screened by EGLE's Air Quality Division. Comments from the public are being accepted until December 15th.

The public has a chance to review the documents and findings of the last proposed air emissions limits (here) and then comment up until December 15th. Lehner says sometimes the public knows of better studies to use or finds mistakes in the evaluations.

EGLE staff will respond to all the substantive comments within 60 days of the close of the comment period.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Radio from 1998-2010.
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