Sanofi halts manufacturing following pollution claims

A conservation group has accused a Sanofi plant in France of releasing hazardous materials far above authorised thresholds

Sanofi, the first industrial company to have established itself on the industrial basin of Lacq, has authorisation to release 5 volatile organic compounds (bromopropane, toluene, isopropanol, valonitrile and propene) into the air within the overall limit of 110 mg/m3.

However, it actually emits 770,000 mg/m3, 7000 times more than the authorised standard.

France Nature Environnement and Sepanso 64 have called for the immediate cessation of pollution, even if it means considering the administrative closure of the site, which is in southern France near the Spanish border. Believing the health of local residents is directly threatened, as well as the environment.

Reuters reported that a Sanofi spokesperson said it would stop production at the plant, which has about 50 employees, by the end of the week and begin steps to reduce emissions.

Sanofi informed the prefecture 6 months after finding the overruns, but in the opinion of France Nature Environnement, it should of done so immediately.

France Nature Environnement believes Sanofi took its time in presenting solutions to the problem, thus avoiding the previous closure of the site. Also these solutions did not cause the pollutants to fall below the fixed acceptable limits, and during the delay employees and residents continued to breathe a toxic cocktail.

Ginette Vastel from France Nature Complete Environnement, said: "(translated from the french) The temporary closure of the plant is necessary, while effective solutions are found. We do not know how long such quantities of toxic substances have been released into the air."

She continued: "It would be necessary to know the history of this pollution. It is time to put in place emission measures and regular environmental measures. Finally, an independent health study is needed with values that take into account all toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic effects."

Sanofi has said it will close the plant and has pledged to address the issue. The French government has said it will monitor the situation.

Cathy Soublès, Sepanso, said: "It is not acceptable that Sanofi continues to massively pollute the air we breathe. It is the health of employees, inhabitants and future generations that is at stake."

The plant produces epilepsy drugs Depakine and Depakote, and Depamide for bipolar disorders. The company have not commented whether the closure will affect drug supply.

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