Two days before Canadian, Mexican and US environmental ministers are to meet in Texas, 11 US national and border-region environmental groups sent a letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Carol Browner asking her to help ensure that Mexican officials institute a mandatory toxic chemical pollution inventory.
Under the US and Canadian toxic chemical right-to-know programs, businesses and governments are required by law to report toxic chemical releases and overall waste generated. Mexico's current toxic chemical reporting program is voluntary, so the information available to the public on toxic releases from the country's facilities is minimal -- only 5 percent of reporting facilities submitted this information. Mexico is obligated under NAFTA and other international agreements, however, to provide the public with far greater information on pollution than is currently available.
"Unlike the case in the US and Canada, the public in Mexico has been kept in the dark about pollution from Mexican industry and governmental facilities. Moreover, because pollution does not respect international boundaries, the US public has a right-to-know and to help address toxic chemical pollution originating in Mexico (and vice versa)," the letter says.
"Toxic chemical releases in the US have been reduced by nearly 50 percent in a decade, largely as a result of the US right-to-know program. We need to bring some 'sunshine' to the toxic releases originating in Mexico, so similar progress can be made," said Environmental Defense executive director Fred Krupp, one of the letter's signatories. "Because the upcoming Mexican elections will introduce new uncertainties, it is critical for the current Mexican government to put a mandatory pollutant release and transfer registry in place this year," he said.