Environment Local News

A chemical company in Louisville’s Rubbertown neighborhood is taking the first step to move away from using a hazardous chemical. But the new chemicals, while not technically “hazardous,” still can cause problems with human health and the environment.

Last month, American Synthetic Rubber applied for a permit from Metro Government to start a construction project. If the permit is granted, it’ll be the first step in the company’s transition away from using toluene, a hazardous chemical that leaked twice in recent weeks.

Company spokeswoman Lynn Mann says this permit is just the first step of a long process.

“We’re in the investigation process for that,” she said. “If that project were to move forward, it would take several years, several phases, but it would replace toluene with two other chemicals.”

Those chemicals are cyclohexane and methylcyclohexane.. Toluene is categorized as hazardous and is regulated under the city’s Strategic Toxic Air Reduction Program, while the other compounds are not.

Mann says the switch will accomplish two goals.

“I think it furthers our commitment to minimize our environmental footprint and also to have the most efficient manufacturing operation possible,” she said. “And if this project were to move forward, it would achieve both goals.”

Both of the new chemicals can still cause problems if breathed in large quantities.

Mann says the decision to stop using toluene is unrelated to the recent releases of that chemical.