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Best Practices in Control of Production and Use of Specialty Chemicals

Because of the vast number of companies at different sites making large numbers of different chemicals, many of which are specialty chemicals, it is beyond the scope of this book to get into each of the processes for discussion and the establishment of Best Practices for each of the specialty chemicals. However, all of the Best Practices listed in the general category and all other categories apply even if specifics are not presented.

Agricultural Chemicals

Agricultural chemicals include fertilizers and pesticides including herbicides. Agricultural chemicals present an immediate and long-term risk for poisoning and serious health effects to workers, the immediate community around the agricultural production, and consumers of agricultural products. The agricultural chemicals utilized may be specific for different crops and each type of pest that needs to be controlled. The agricultural chemicals are used in very large quantities. In fact, worldwide over $125 billion is spent on these chemicals. However, without them there would be a huge decrease in food production and worldwide hunger.

Fertilizers are nutrients needed by plants to grow and thrive. The raw materials used to make fertilizers come from nitrogen, phosphorus, and depending on the type of fertilizer, other substances. Ammonia is a primary nitrogen source for the production of fertilizers. Ammonia in high concentrations is extremely hazardous to people. To produce the most usable form of fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, potassium chloride, and ammonium phosphate are put together and blended. This process may produce substantial amounts of dust. Fertilizer is then supplied to farmers usually in large bags. To fill these bags, the substances needed are dumped in appropriate quantities into a large hopper and this then also becomes a means of contributing dust to the environment. Much of the nitrogen is not used in the soil but contributes to problems when runoff carries it into bodies of water.

Pesticides contain active ingredients that kill the pest and inert ingredients which are used as a binder to enhance the ability of the toxin to be sprayed or coated on the surface of either an unwanted plant or an insect or make the toxin available for consumption by insects or rodents. Many of the chemicals used are hazardous and the end product is hazardous to people and the environment. When the concentrated pesticide is diluted for use, there is potential hazard to the workers and also to the environment. The end-use of the pesticide if not properly applied in appropriate quantities to resolve the problem will contaminate the environment and may cause short-term or long-term health effects in people. Persistence of the pesticide in the environment may be very harmful for the long-term health of ecosystems and people.

Chemicals used for agriculture as well as the fertilizers and pesticides used on lawns are a serious potential water quality issue. Stormwater runoff causes not only erosion and the movement of sediment to bodies of water but also movement of hazardous chemicals into surface bodies of water or downward into the groundwater supply. These chemicals contaminate the air and the land. They may also contaminate raw food. The loss of raw chemical products during production, preparation, storage, and use is not only a hazardous materials problem but also an economic problem for the manufacturer and person applying the substance in the agricultural setting.

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