Chemical Manufacturing

Chemical Manufacturing

Fact Sheet: Chemical Manufacturing – Ranked #9


Estimated DALYs: 765,000


What is the industry?


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes the following as chemical manufacturing: basic chemicals, including pigments, dyes, gases and petrochemicals; synthetic materials like plastics; paint products, cleaning products; and other chemicals including film, ink and explosives. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is also considered under the umbrella of chemical manufacturing. During the production of these chemicals and products, dangerous by-products and waste are generated. Examples include the use of chromium in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, antiseptics, cleaning materials and toners and the use of mercury in light bulbs, thermometers, explosives and preservatives.


What are the pollutants?


The top pollutants by DALY are lead and chromium and the top pollutants by population at risk include pesticides and volatile organic compounds. Other pollutants include mercury, arsenic and cadmium.


What are the exposure pathways?


The chemical manufacturing industry is the largest single consumer of water by sector in all OECD countries, with agriculture being the largest single consumer globally, making wastewater from chemical manufacturing a key pathway. Pollutants can also be released through emissions, and release of dust, or the improper disposal of waste.


What are the health risks?


When lead is inhaled or ingested it is stored in the body and accumulates over time. Lead is designated as a possible human carcinogen, and can cause neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems. Neurological problems include mild mental retardation, decreased IQ, shortened attention spans, loss of executive function, increased dyslexia and diminished productivity and disproportionally affect children. Chromium is a known carcinogen that is proven to cause lung cancer from inhalation and is suspected to cause stomach cancer through ingestion. Mercury causes renal toxicity, damage to the immune system and neurological damage. Volatile organic compounds include a wide range of chemicals that can cause kidney and liver damage, throat irritation, headaches, and damage to the respiratory system.

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