MIDLOTHIAN, TexasTo hear Sue Pope tell it,
tons of toxic pollutants spewing from three nearby cement factories
have ruined her immune system, stripped her lung capacity, and
probably caused her husband's cancer as well as numerous inexplicable
illnesses around town.
Talk to state, local or industry officials here
and they'll tell you that decades of studies prove the air around
the nation's largest concentration of cement plants is just fine.
Both sides hope a sweeping new federal study will
finally answer the question that environmentalists, industry leaders,
politicians and scientists have argued about for at least 20 years:
Just how toxic is this place?
Cement factory pollution has become an increasing
concern around the country, with the Environmental Protection
Agency in April proposing new rules to cut emissions at the nation's
According to the most recent EPA statistics, the
plants in 2007 emitted about 300 tons of sulfuric acid, nearly
20 tons of benzene, and smaller amounts of mercury, chromium,
manganese and other chemicals. Those emissions were within the
annual limits allowed on their state emissions permits, but that
doesn't comfort some folks in town.
"A lot of people have paid the price,"
said Pope, a 69-year-old former horse breeder who lives near one
plant and leads an environmental watchdog group. "They are
responsible for a lot of the pollution and are causing the climate
and her group, Downwinders at Risk, paint a much bleaker picture.
They cite "innumerable" people who've contracted strange
illnesses, cancer, birth defects, respiratory problems and "gusher"
nosebleeds. Pope has chronicled dozens of problems with animals,
including some born with short legs and extra paws or have hair
loss, cancer and reproductive problems.
Former resident Carrie Walker, 35, said she had
strange rashes, bronchitis, pneumonia and a fever that persisted
for a couple years. She said nobody could figure out what was
wrong and then a doctor finally told her she needed to leave town.
"Considering the fact that prior to living
there my lung capacity was excellent and then after two years
it was at 55 percent and now it's normal again, I'd say it's pretty
certain there's a link," said Walker, who now lives in Dallas.
"When I go see my doctors now, the first thing they say is,
'Please tell me you're staying away from Midlothian.'"
Alexandra Allred, whose young son has landed in
the emergency room several times with asthma attacks he never
had before moving here in 2001, hopes to be leaving soon. She's
put her house up for sale, eager to leave a place where half of
her daughter's 12-girl soccer team routinely runs to the sideline
for their asthma inhalers.
"All the studies say everything's fine, but
if you just look at the sky and the smoke you know it's not,"
The state health agency says birth defect rates
are slightly higher in Ellis County than in the rest of the state,
but that it's higher in a large area of North Texas including
Dallas and Fort Worth. It's unclear why those figures are higher
in that portion of the state, agency spokeswoman Emily Palmer
said. State statistics also show a cancer rate that's slightly
higher but not statistically significant.
The agency doesn't track respiratory problems,
so it's hard to quantify those anecdotes from around town.
the EPA issued sweeping new proposed rules that would require 163
cement kilns nationwide to cut emissions of mercury, along with
soot, hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid by 2013.
The rules would require cement plants to cut mercury
emissions by up to 93 percent from current levels, with similar
reductions for other pollutants. If the rules are adopted, they
will be the first mercury emissions standard ever on the cement
"We're very excited. These rules are historic,"
said Joyce Eden, a yoga teacher who lives half a mile from the
Cupertino plant and has criticized it for years.
State health officials
advise pregnant women to eat no more than 1 meal of fish from the
bay a month due to the mercury contamination.
Cupertino cement plant managers say they may be
able to meet the new mercury standards, but the equipment will
cost $40 million or more.
BERKELEY, CA (KGO) -- It's
not only a dubious distinction, it's potentially dangerous. Three
schools in Berkeley subject kids to some of the worst air in the
country. Black Pine Circle School, Nia House Learning Center and
the Via Center are all private
schools located near a toxic site.
Scientists have long
known that kids are particularly susceptible to the dangers of
bad air. Their bodies are still developing and they breathe more
air in proportion to their weight, than adults do.
That's why this latest study focused on schools.
is moving to get rid of products with a chemical common in plastic
baby bottles, the United States is expressing concern over its safety
and some retailers are planning to stop selling these items.
this point, the writing is on the wall for bisphenol A. Major
retailers and governments all across the country and the world are
now recognizing that this chemical is extremely toxic at very low
levels of exposure," Michael Schade of the U.S.
environmental group Center for Health, Environment and Justice said
in a telephone interview.
the National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. government's National
Institutes of Health, issued a draft report expressing concern that
BPA could cause neural
and behavioral problems in fetuses, infants and children.
Relying on the results of animal studies, it expressed
concern about possible links between BPA exposure and early
puberty and prostate and breast cancer.
Dr. Anila Jacob of the activist Environmental
Working Group said using rodent studies to assess toxicity is
a well-established practice given that scientists cannot expose
humans to possible toxins in research for ethical reasons.
Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement said on
Friday his country intends to become the first to ban the import
and sale of some types of plastic baby bottles because they contain
BPA. He expressed concern
that overexposure at an early age could cause later behavioral
and neurological symptoms.
Steel Casting is showering West Berkeley's skies with toxic metal
traces that can cause cancer and neurological problems, according
to a group of activists who have been monitoring air around the
plant since May.
Global Community Monitor, a non-profit environmental justice group
based in San Francisco, started monitoring the air with a $25,000
grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
The group released preliminary data Tuesday from
12 air monitoring sites around Pacific Steel Casting, which has
been making steel parts such as fire hydrants, truck parts and
bridge pieces in Berkeley since 1934. It
found levels of manganese and nickel much higher than those deemed
safe by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental
The group plans to continue monitoring through
December, said director Denny Larson.
``We knew there was a long list of complaints
from the plant, but we didn't know if people were being exposed
to toxic levels of pollution, and now we have the data,'' said
Peter Guerrero, a consultant working with Larson. ``The
state of California and the city should look at an industrial
relocation plan for them. Just because they have been here for
decades doesn't excuse their behavior.''
said it found concentrations of manganese, which can cause neurological
problems similar to Parkinson's disease, and nickel, which can cause
cancer, in the air at five sites near the plant.
Those levels were found in the air as far as six
blocks from the plant at Second and Gilman streets.
Larson said the group tested the air for metal
traces Pacific Steel has admitted it releases in its steel-making
process. In a report to
the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Pacific Steel said
it released 529 pounds of manganese and 19 pounds of nickel
into the air during a one-year period in 2005 and 2006.
Pacific Steel factory resistance:
Steel spokeswoman Elizabeth Jewel said closing the plant and moving
out of Berkeley is a ``completely unrealistic'' option. ``That would
be a huge loss for the city of Berkeley,'' Jewel said. ``Where would
they like us to go?''
is a group of concerned citizens who are not scientists, with no
scientific training, who are coming to conclusions that can't be
supported,'' Jewel said. ``They don't follow any standard scientific
methodology. They don't publish their methodology or how they came
to those numbers, there's no peer review and there's no way to say
definitively that the source is Pacific Steel.''
Belmont City Council voted last night
to approve one of the most toughest smoking bans in the USA.
on smoking in parks and other public places will take effect in
30 days. The ordinance's most hotly contested elements -- which
ban smoking inside apartments and condominiums -- won't be enforced
for another 14 months.
Smoking ban to get rid of second hand
smoke exposure and save lives in Belmont:
is set to make history by becoming the first city in the nation
to ban smoking on its streets and almost everywhere else.
The Belmont City Council voted unanimously last night to pursue
a strict law that will prohibit smoking anywhere in the city except
for single-family detached residences. Smoking on the street, in
a park and even in ones car will become illegal and police
would have the option of handing out tickets if they catch someone.
have a tremendous opportunity here. We need to pass as stringent
a law as we can, I would like to make it illegal, said Councilman
Dave Warden. What if
every city did this, image how many lives would be saved? If we
can do one little thing here at this level it will matter.
Armed with growing evidence that second-hand smoke
causes negative health effects, the council chose to pursue the
strictest law possible and deal with any legal challenges later.
Last month, the council said it wanted to pursue a law similar
to ones passed in Dublin and the Southern California city of Calabasas.
It took up the cause after a citizen at a senior living facility
requested smoke be declared a public nuisance, allowing him to
sue neighbors who smoke.
The council was concerned about people smoking
in multi-unit residences.
I would just like to say no smoking
and see what happens and if they do smoke, [someone] has the right
to have the police come and give them a ticket, said Councilwoman
cant walk down the street with a beer, but you can have a
cigarette, Warden said. You shouldnt be allowed
to do that. I just think it shouldnt be allowed anywhere except
in someones house. If you want to do that, thats fine.
members of the City Council consider approving the revised ordinance
Sept. 11, they will still be voting on a novel idea: Restricting
smoking in some private homes.
According to a summary of the ordinance released
this week, the new measure would prohibit smoking in individual
units and yard areas of multi-unit residences that share a ceiling
or floor with another unit.
The ordinance would also ban smoking in indoor
or outdoor workplaces; public places such as sports fields, parks
or malls; common areas of multi-family residences; and within
20 feet of any place where smoking is not allowed.
Smoking would still be allowed in detached single-family
homes and in multifamily units without another tenant above or
Feierbach acknowledges that banning smoking in a condo or apartment
is "uncommon" for smoking ordinances. But a few weeks
ago, while she was watching her granddaughter and opened the windows
to get some air, Feierbach said she realized the importance of
She thought about what would happen if there were
smokers outside and she were in an upstairs unit.
if this were a condo? That little baby would be taking in smoke.
It didn't crystallize for me until it actually happened,"
Resistance from San Mateo County Association
understand the city's desire to protect the health and safety of
their community," said George Mozingo, director of government
affairs for the organization. "Where we do have a concern about
is the regulation of a legal activity, in this case smoking, within
a private residence." ...As for filing a lawsuit challenging
the law, Mozingo said, "That's certainly not on the table.
At this point, the ordinance hasn't been passed and we're still
discussing it with folks."
"The city has garnered support from the
local American Lung Association's chapter and some residents.