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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Watch CNN’s Toxic America Special

By Mike Schade, PVC Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

On June 2nd at 8pm, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be airing an hour-long investigative story into the environmental health and justice problems plaguing the community of Mossville, Louisiana. Nestled amidst an alarming cluster of chemical plants, Mossville is home to more PVC chemical plants than anywhere else in the entire country, and has been dubbed the Vinyl Manufacturing Capital of America.

CNN broke a terrific story a few weeks ago profiling Mossville which you can watch in this video link. Dr. Gupta’s June 2nd feature will explore how Mossville has been polluted by the chemical industry with vinyl chloride, dioxins and other harmful chemicals.

From Buffalo, NY to Mossville, Louisiana

I traveled to Mossville back in 2004 as part of an environmental health delegation that I led and organized, to bear witness to the environmental pollution the chemical industry has brought to this poor African American community. CertainTeed, one of our nation’s largest PVC manufacturers, was building a PVC fabrication plant on the Lake Erie waterfront in Buffalo, and we wanted to investigate how CertainTeed and other PVC plants had impacted Mossville in Louisiana. CertainTeed’s chemicals were manufactured just outside Mossville, and were then shipped to Buffalo to be fabricated.

At the time, I was no stranger to contaminated communities. I had visited and worked with many impacted communities in the Buffalo area, from homeowners in Hickory Woods whose neighborhood was built on toxic waste, to parents fighting the only hazardous waste landfill in the Northeastern United States.

I was no stranger to toxic pollution, but was not prepared for the scope of pollution and cluster of chemical plants bordering this environmental justice community. A few colleagues and I went on a toxic tour led by Mr. Edgar Mouton Jr., who is an inspiration to me. We met with concerned residents and former workers, and drove around parts of the community that had been turned into a ghost town – scores of homes were evacuated due to the plume of chemicals seeping into the neighborhood. We listened to residents’ stories of cancer, asthma and reproductive health problems – diseases residents were sure were a result of the chemical industry.

I will never forget that visit. That experience and trip stays with me every day, and it motivates me to continue fighting for environmental health and justice.

A Posterchild for the PVC Chemical Industry

Mossville is not an isolated example, but instead a poster child for a broken chemical safety system. Mossville is also a posterchild for the PVC chemical industry’s pollution, as PVC plants are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color, making the production of PVC a major environmental justice concern for neighboring residents.

Community members, led by Mossville Environmental Action Now, have been fighting for a healthy community for years. Just consider some of these alarming facts:

  • A jury found one of the United States’ leading PVC manufacturers liable for “wanton and reckless disregard of public safety,” caused by one of the largest chemical spills in the nation’s history which contaminated the groundwater underneath the surrounding community.
  • A 1999 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found vinyl chloride levels in ambient air greater than 100 times the state air quality standard.
  • Independent studies confirmed groundwater is threatened by liquid toxic leachate, and there are contaminated fish, vegetables and fruit in the area.
  • Studies in 1998 and 2001 by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found alarming results — residents had more than three times the national average of dioxins in their blood, elevated dioxins in breast milk and high cancer mortality rates.

More recently a few years ago, MEAN compiled data from the USEPA and ATSDR and found 77% of the mixture of dioxin compounds released by the Georgia Gulf PVC plant were the same dioxin compounds that made up 77% of the dioxins detected in the blood of Mossville residents. This finding shows that residents are accumulating the same mixture of dioxin compounds being released from the Georgia Gulf PVC plant and this mixture includes the most toxic forms of dioxin.

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, June 2nd and Thursday, June 3rd at 8pm EST to watch CNN’s “Toxic America” and stand in solidarity with the community of Mossville, and all communities impacted by the PVC chemical industry.

I’ll be there watching, will you?

This post originally appeared on The Center for Health, Environment and Justice‘s (CHEJ) blog, Backyard Talk.

Don’t miss “Toxic America, a 2-day CNN special featuring Healthy Child founders, Jim and Nancy Chuda, Scientific Advisor, Phil Landrigan, and our A Wake-Up Story. “Toxic America” airs June 2nd and 3rd at 8 PM ET on CNN.

Are you concerned about how environmental health will impact your family? Post your comments on the Parenting Exchange.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 9:34 am

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