The volume of toxic chemicals N.C. industries released into the air, water or land rose nearly 4 percent in 2010, a federal report said today, ending a four-year trend of declining emissions.
The Toxics Release Inventory is the government's annual account of more than 600 chemicals that industries let go into the environment, mostly into the air. The TRI typically comes out about a year after the chemical releases it summarizes. The chemicals can cause cancer or other illnesses.
What's interesting about 2010 is that, nationally and in the Carolinas, a downward trend in releases stopped. Total U.S. releases rose 16 percent from 2009, to 3.9 billion pounds. North Carolina's went up 3.7 percent, to 66 million pounds, while South Carolina's emissions jumped 19 percent to nearly 60 million pounds.
Metal mining and chemical manufacturing led the increases nationwide. Some sectors, such as the 12 percent drop in releases electric utilities reported, continued to fall.
North Carolina ranked 19th-highest among the states, and South Carolina 21st. Top emitting N.C. counties were New Hanover, Person, Columbus, Beaufort, Catawba, Gaston, Bladen, Haywood, Bertie and Wayne.
Mecklenburg County came in 35th, with 346,570 pounds, but lead the state in releases of dioxin and dioxin-like compounds. Dioxins are man-made chemicals, released in minute quantities, that can cause skin rashes, liver damage and reduced immune function. All of the 48 grams reported in 2010 were attributed to the Gerdau Ameristeel steel mill in northern Mecklenburg.