Downwind Dialectics

Dorothy Felix, Mossville Environmental Action Now, Inc.

In my African-American community of Mossville, Louisiana, we are suffering from dangerous levels of dioxin that have been found in our bodies. Our community was settled in the 1800s and was beautiful, but it is now surrounded by huge vinyl facilities that produce and use chlorine. Chlorine is a known source of dioxin. Exposure to even small amounts of dioxin can cause cancer. Dioxin also damages the reproductive system, impairs the immune system, harms child development, and causes numerous other severe health problems. Young women and teenage girls in Mossville have suffered from painful endometriosis. They have had to cope with hysterectomies to stop endometriosis, a disease that is linked to pollution from industries that use chlorine. Chemotherapy treatments and constant visits to doctors are now a part of our lives while industrial facilities release millions of pounds of toxic pollution in our community.

I am outraged that EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman is now planning to delay setting pollution limits on chlorine production facilities. These facilities are jeopardizing the health of Mossville residents and many other communities in this country. We have suffered enough. Further delay by the EPA would be another sign that our lives and our health are not worthy of environmental protection. Christie Todd Whitman and the EPA must take action that limits the pollution coming from chlorine facilities because our lives depend on it.

Cynthia Babich, Director Del Amo Action Committee

I represent a community that lives next to a large Mobil/Exxon refinery in Los Angeles. It constantly spews toxic chemicals into the air here, and the residents I work with suffer from headaches, nosebleeds and respiratory problems. I know that the boilers and process heaters at this refinery emit many toxic pollutants, including benzene and other volatile organic compounds. In fact, this community has one of the highest recorded levels of benzene in the nation.

This refinery is part of a manufacturing complex that has polluted the community for decades. This complex contaminated the soil at my house so badly that I was forced to move out, but the people living nearby are still in danger.

Peoples' health here is badly threatened. It's hard for us to understand how Christine Whitman would put off the control of the emissions. The EPA is protecting the polluter, not the people.

Deb MulCahey, Resident, Lansing, Michigan

I live near General Motor's Lansing Car Assembly plant in Lansing, Michigan. This community has been exposed for years to toxic emissions from that plant. It produces 500,000 cars each year, and its painting process spews huge amounts of toxic volatile organic compounds into our air.

I know that the chemicals contained in painting VOCs are harmful to the environment, can damage the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, and may pose a cancer risk to humans. I also know that GM is not going to reduce its emissions until it has to do so -- until the Environmental Protection Agency or the State of Michigan sets emission standards. By putting off those standards, EPA needlessly places the health of people in our community at risk.

Jill Van Vorrhis, President, Citizens Against American Landfill Expansion

My family and I live near Waste Management’s Waynesburg, Ohio landfill. The largest in a state that is home to many landfills, it covers 240 acres. The trash has been piled so high that the top of the landfill marks the highest elevation in the county. We live directly across the road, although the odors can be smelled five miles away.

I know that the rotting organic substances in landfills emit major amounts of toxic volatile organic compounds including carcinogens like benzene and dioxins. I also know that trash containing mercury is thrown in the landfill -- old thermostats, switches and thermometers among other things -- so that mercury emissions are a major problem. And I know that landfills emit major amounts of hydrogen chloride, a highly corrosive acid.

Where we live, the odors are indescribably bad. On some days it’s so bad it burns the eyes and makes you sick. On some summer days, we have to go inside and close the doors and windows because it’s just impossible to breath outside. And I know that these smells are not just bad odors; they’re toxic chemicals that can do real harm to my children.

I wish Christine Todd Whitman lived here. Maybe then she’d think twice about giving the landfill industry another extension on cleaning up its emissions.

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