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Chemical Globalization: Good or Bad?
Chemical Globalization: Good or Bad?
The concept of globalization stems from the idea that each country can rely on other countries for essential parts of their economy. For instance, the U.S. is the second largest exporter in the world. The three largest U.S. export categories are automotive vehicles, chemicals, and petroleum products (EPA). Most people think of globalization as a great concept that can connect the world, but there are some negative side effects that people don’t realize.
A major concern across the world is global climate change which is a direct result of the chemicals we put into our atmosphere. For example, when nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides are released into the atmosphere they can combine with water to form acid rain. Acid rain is responsible for speeding up the decay of buildings, statues, and other structures. Another concern that’s directly related to climate change is the depletion of our ozone layer. The ozone layer is vital to Earth’s population, so why are we destroying parts of it? The chemicals can stay in our atmosphere for years which eventually destroys parts of the layer.
The problem with chemical globalization is that there’s no ecofriendly alternative. Since we need these chemicals to go through our daily lives there are not many possible options to avoid the usage. The government and the EPA have been enforcing many laws to regulate the dumping and quantity of the chemicals. The three types of chemicals that are of major concern are pesticides, toxic chemicals, and PCBs. The laws regarding these chemicals require companies to report, record, and test the chemical substances. Also, the facilities that store the chemicals are constantly regulated and require proper preparation for any chemical emergencies.
The EPA also has multiple cleanup enforcement programs that protect human health and the environment by ensuring that those responsible for any hazardous waste properly clean up their mess. The programs include Superfund, Corrective Action, Leaking Underground Storage Tanks, and Brownfields and Land Revitalization (EPA). Each program has a specific set of requirements that give companies a set of rules to follow.
Although many people will only connect chemical pollution with our atmosphere, it also has an effect on the ocean’s wildlife. A recent example of destruction to the ocean’s wildlife is the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. More than 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf and officials were tasked with the challenge to try to clean up the oil spill to limit damage. The spill spanned 16,000 total miles along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Florida. The area is still contaminated to this day and the number of animals that were reported dead or injured is around 10,000. Although the oil was disastrous for the environment, the cleanup was almost equally as detrimental. The processes that were followed to clean up the mess were very harmful to the environment. Officials tried to burn the oil that was on the top layer of the ocean, which affects the animals and also the communities near the burning. Officials also dumped chemicals into the oil to try to break up the spill in hopes that the oil would disperse at a faster rate.
The oil company, BP, had to pay $40 billion in fines and cleanup costs and an additional $16 billion for violating the Clean Water Act. Similar to chemicals in the atmosphere, the oil will stay in the environment for years. BP will be paying fines and working on the cleanup for many years to come. This example proves how dangerous the use of harmful chemicals can be in our environment. It’s possible that one minor mistake could lead to an environmental crisis at any time. Determining the appropriate amount of chemicals for usage is a nearly impossible task for the EPA. There will always be debates on the effect that they have on the environment and our atmosphere, but with the programs put in place hopefully companies can properly regulate their usage.
“11 Facts About the BP Oil Spill.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change, www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-bp-oil-spill.
“Waste, Chemical, and Cleanup Enforcement.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 11 July 2017, www.epa.gov/enforcement/waste-chemical-and-cleanup-enforcement#chemical.