California’s major metal-shredding facilities provide great benefit to the state and its citizens. The metal-shredding process itself is not a danger to facility employees, public health or the environment. Neither the scrap metal processed by these facilities, nor the finished metal products they produce are wastes. Residuals from the process are chemically treated, rendering the treated material safe for use as daily cover at municipal landfills. Enclosures and other Best Management Practices are widely used to control offsite dispersion of LFM, and rigorous fire-prevention practices are followed. The service performed by California’s major metal-shredding facilities promotes recycling, saves natural resources and energy, creates thousands of jobs, fulfills the requirements of California law by preventing scrap metal from going into landfills, and protects the environment, all at the same time.
Do metal-shredding facilities pose a threat to public health or the environment?
What about the large piles of scrap metal at these facilities awaiting shredding? Are they a hazard?
Processed metal products are also stockpiled for shipment and do not pose a risk. These products are solid metal objects that do not leach or emit pollutants into the air.
How about the materials left over after the metals have been removed from the shredded scrap?
The small amount of remaining metal that is contained in the treated MSR is chemically bound in the residue, greatly reducing its ability to leach into the environment.
For more than 30 years, treated MSR has been allowed by DTSC and other regulators to be used in municipal landfills as daily cover. After decades of use, no releases to groundwater have ever been detected, even in unlined landfills. Additionally, air monitoring devices placed on landfill equipment show no hazardous air emissions.
What about non-metallic particles that may be released during the shredding process or when the residue is stored on site?
LFM is too large to be inhaled (i.e., is “non-respirable”).
LFM also cannot be absorbed through the skin.
Someone could accidentally ingest LFM but this is very unlikely. LFM would be obvious on someone’s hands and would be brushed or washed off rather than eaten.
DTSC’s own risk assessor reached the same conclusion and stated at a community meeting that LFM does not pose a risk to local residents based on the very low potential for exposure.
While LFM is technically categorized as “hazardous” according to state regulatory thresholds, these thresholds pertain to hypothetical releases from wastes in a landfill setting and are not based on real-life risks to human health.
Major improvements have been made at shredding facilities, at a cost of millions of dollars, to minimize the potential for LFM to become airborne and blow offsite.
Are employees at these facilities subjected to greater health risks?
Periodic industrial hygiene testing is conducted (e.g., blood lead levels) and there have been no levels of any harmful chemicals detected that exceeded health-based standards. Worker safety at these California plants is the best in the world.