UCLA has launched a new interactive map tracking the impact of toxins from local factories on the environment in Los Angeles County. Developed by seven students, it details more than eight million pounds of toxic chemicals released into the environment during 2012.
The group looked at the petroleum, chemicals, primary metals, and fabricated metals industries, which make up 89 percent of toxins in the county. With data from 172 facilities that are required to report toxin releases to the government, students developed an environmental impact rating system. For example, Exide Technologies, which has been under scrutiny for pollution from its battery recycling operation in Vernon, scored a 78, one of the highest. Two other businesses, Pacific Alloy Castings in South Gate and Quemetco in the city of Industry, received higher scores.
UCLA was tapped by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of an academic challenge for the project and will continue its work over the next school year. The agency tracks nearly 650 toxic chemicals from more than 20,000 U.S. facilities and hopes projects like UCLA's will increase the public's awareness of toxic releases.
"If the public doesn't care, then the facilities won't care," said student Ha Hyun Chung. "And how would they care without access to this information in the first place?"