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The cost of progress

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jeffc | May 07, 2009 01:39 PM

The Environmental Working Group just released a two-year study focusing on the toxins found in five minority women at the forefront of environmental justice battles. Within each community, these women work tirelessly to protect citizens from various forms of pollution. And within each of these women, scientists found significantly higher amounts of toxins than other Americans who have been tested.

Here's a look at the three Westerners in the study:

Suzie Canales of Citizens for Environmental Justice (CEJ) investigates all of Corpus Christi, TX., for the impacts of the energy industry there. The study says CEJ “found the city’s birth defect rate to be 84 percent higher than in other parts of Texas.”

Suzie's current battle: preventing Citgo Petroleum Corp. from expanding operations in Corpus Christi

Test highlights:

  • Tested positive for 26 to 29 of 75 chemicals.
  • Bisphenol A - 85th percentile. Higher than all but 15 percent of Americans tested.
  • Polycyclic musks - 86th percentile. Higher than all but 14 percent of people tested.
  • Also found - Perchlorate, lead, perfluorochemicals (PFCs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), mercury.

Jean Salone, also of CEJ, chaired a biomonitoring study that found residents of her predominantly African American community “had elevated blood and urine concentrations of benzene, a chemical associated with oil drilling and refining and listed by the U.S. government as a known human carcinogen.” Hillcrest, Salone’s community, borders the Citgo oil refinery. She wonders if her own bout with breast cancer is connected to refinery emissions.

Test highlights:

  • Tested positive for for 40 to 45 of 75 chemicals chemicals.
  • Bisphenol A - 77th percentile. Higher than all but 23 percent of Americans tested.
  • Perfluorochemicals (PFCs) - 80th percentile. Higher than all but 20 percent of Americans tested.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) - 89th percentile. Higher than all but 11 percent of Americans tested.
  • Also found - Perchlorate, lead, mercury, polycyclic musks.

Vivian Chang, former executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, in Oakland, CA., says Asian immigrants face “isolation and invisibility to the regulatory agencies,” because nobody speaks their language. She organized the Laotian community of Richmond, CA., “to confront environmental problems caused by the local Chevron oil refinery.”

Test highlights:

  • Tested positive for for 40 to 45 of 75 chemicals chemicals.
  • Mercury - 91st percentile. Higher than all but 9 percent of Americans tested.
  • Polycyclic musks - 84th percentile. Higher than all but 16 percent of people tested.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) - 86th percentile. Higher than all but 14 percent of Americans tested.
  • Also found - Perchlorate, bisphenol A (BPA), lead, perfluorochemicals (PFCs).

In April, researchers from the University of Massachusetts and the University of Southern California released a study stating that low-income and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by industrially-generated toxic air.

Where's the corporate responsibility?

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