Emerging Pollution Concerns and Waste Disposal
Our country generates a lot of waste, and regardless of where it’s coming from, it must be handled, transported, and disposed of according to strict guidelines. But what happens when the substances or materials being disposed of are not fully understood? If there are no concise guidelines for handling or cleaning them up, how can the risk be correctly evaluated? From climate change and infectious diseases to social inflation, waste disposal is becoming more complicated. Emerging environmental exposures and their release is all over the news — here are a few making headlines:
Because “forever chemicals,” or PFAS, are extremely persistent, widely used, and have been unregulated for decades, they are found in many more places than just near the facilities that have manufactured or utilized them in their operations. Additionally, PFAS cannot be removed by wastewater treatment facilities, so these chemicals have found their way into the agricultural products from farms that utilize sludge for fertilizing their fields. While this is undesirable in plant products, it is even worse in animals that bio-accumulate the chemicals in their eggs, milk, or meat. In the last decade, the EPA has made strides in developing regulations for the management, disposal, and cleanup of these materials.
The pharmaceutical industry is being blamed for polluting the environment and contributing to favorable conditions for anti-microbial resistant (AMR) bacteria – called “superbugs”— to flourish. In February, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report calling on specific sectors to take immediate steps to reduce the kind of pollution that has led to the rise in AMR bacteria. This report, combined with other studies and growing public concern, may hint at the trajectory of environmental legislation. Mismanagement and the improper disposal of pharmaceutical waste will be key points in this discussion.
The type and volume of products produced with a plastic component is greater than ever. If plastics are disposed of in bodies of water, they may break down into tiny pieces. They are consumed by aquatic life, and when fish eat these particles and then people eat the fish, people are ingesting them as well. Microplastics may take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose, so they continue accumulating and impacting the environment. Although some of the pollution results from littering, runoff, and natural disasters, much of it is also occurring because of negligent waste disposal in the manufacturing and industrial industries.
Due to the consequences of mismanaged waste, and the uncertainty surrounding emerging contaminants, businesses must responsibly dispose of their materials as well as add pollution insurance protection for themselves from potential future liabilities. For more information on waste disposal or to discuss a specific account, please contact us or call (800) 596-2156.