By: Leah Napier-Raikes
After an investigation conducted in 2021 at BCP Ingredients, a chemical manufacturer in Verona, Missouri, dozens of serious safety and health violations have been uncovered, detailing U.S. 16 violations identified by the Department of Labor, including putting employees at risk of exposure to toxic substances such as ethylene oxide. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigators noted how the company is negligent through failing to implement any emergency action plans and not training employees in case of a chemical release.
After a follow-up investigation in January 2023, OSHA proposed $393,798 in penalties to BCP Ingredients and issued a hazard alert letter for inadequate medical evaluation procedures for workers exposed to ethylene oxide.
In addition to the health and safety violations identified by OSHA in 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency workers presented the community, detailing the increased risk of cancer imposed to those located near the plant as a result of inhaling the fumes of ethylene oxide, with studies showing those exposed having higher rates of lymphoid cancer and, in females, breast cancer.
Resident, Cheyenne Newman, who is facing stage three breast cancer strongly believes her condition is caused by the plants’ emissions, which have been monitored over a span of four months this year by air sampling machines provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA are not yet disclosing the safety levels of ethylene oxide are in the air in Verona, as they will be doing even more tests, however they have acknowledged the increased risk of developing cancer that is present due to the exposure which they aim to reduce.
This case shows how corporations can act when there is an absence of regulation about their practices in how they treat the environment and their workers, placing profit over spending more money and time into ethical and safe practices, even if a population will suffer as a result. Ways in which we can prevent companies such as BCP from being negligent in their actions is to support organizations such as EPA who will monitor companies impact on local environments, and OSHA who will protect workers from these practices.
Although this is a small case with environmental effects being on a relatively small scale, this is not an isolated situation and it resembles a much larger issue that we have at hand in regards to our environmental crisis. As Carbon Major Reports in 2017 reported how just 100 companies are accountable for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, the evidence shows that regulation of corporate actions is the key to a greener future. In the instance of BCP being held accountable for their impact on the population of the surrounding town and how they neglect their duty of care over their workers, following this example, we can contact our local governments and push them to assess how companies in our areas may be damaging the environment. We can also understand how through donating to environmental pressure groups who have direct connection to our government, we can progress towards stricter regulation of large, international corporations and their practices which impact our planet.