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'Keep Your Hands Off My Clean Air Act Standards'

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04 February 2011, 1:04 PM
Powerful op-ed from Alex Allred, mother of three, takes Rep. Carter to task
Alex Allred.

Alex Allred is a wife, mother of three, author, former Olympic bobsledder (!), and passionate advocate for clean air. Years ago, she and her family moved to Midlothian, Texas. Said Allred, “We moved here partly because we thought it would be a great place to raise our three kids.”

Shortly after the move, however, Alex’s son got sick with flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, and then double pneumonia. “He’d collapse on the floor. I’d pick him up and drive like a maniac to the emergency room.” It happened six times. The diagnosis given was environmental asthma.

The catalyst for her son’s sudden respiratory ailment rested in one of Midlothian’s distinguishing features: a large number of nearby cement plants. Allred ultimately got involved with Downwinders at Risk, a Dallas-based education and advocacy group on whose board she currently serves, and took her concerns over the unregulated toxic pollution from cement plants to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Allred and Downwinders at Risk—an Earthjustice client in multi-year litigation to clean up cement plants—were instrumental in securing the health protections, against cement plants’ toxic air pollution, that the EPA issued in Aug. 2010.

Those health protections are the ones that Rep. John Carter (R-TX) is now trying to take away.

Allred wrote an impassioned op-ed on Rep. Carter’s attempt to block these health protections. Here’s a snippet:

I live in a town that has more cement kiln smokestacks per square mile than any other in Texas. Until last year, four of them were permitted to burn hazardous wastes. Five others burn tires. The sixth just requested to burn plastics and all the non-steel parts of cars.

Over the last 20 years, these kilns have spewed almost a billion pounds of air pollution into the skies above my family’s home, including mercury, lead, benzene and soot. Exactly the kinds of toxic air pollution reduced by the limits Rep. Carter now wants to permanently repeal.

Over the last decade, I’ve held hands with more neighbors than I can count as they tell stories of cancer, upper respiratory diseases, and asthma that come without medical explanation. I wrote letters supporting the pollution limits, as did most Americans who took the trouble to comment at all. I testified at public hearings. I lobbied legislators. The local citizens group I joined was one of those that had filed the original lawsuit.

And Midlothian isn’t the only community at risk from cement plants’ mercury and other toxic pollution. There are 100 facilities across the country in California, Oregon, Washington State, New York, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and beyond. The EPA estimates that the health protections Carter wants to block will save the lives of as many as 2,500 Americans every year. All in Congress who value public health must oppose Rep. Carter’s ploy to strip Americans of these substantial health benefits.

Again, Alex Allred:

After 13 years of doing everything our political system required of us, and then some, my fellow citizens and I won the battle over these new pollution limits fair and square. And now Rep. Carter, long after the fact and with absolutely no interest in the debate that’s already taken place, wants to junk the whole thing just like that.

That isn’t democracy. It’s usurpation.

I fought hard to protect my family, Congressman. Keep your hands off my Clean Air Act standards.

Here's a video of Alex's son, Tommy, from a few years ago:

I live in Grand Prairie Tx and for years I have seen the white dust DAILY settled on my car and the bush leaves at my house. We live several miles from the kilns in Midlothian but obviously the dust carries and we ALL breathe it daily.
We drove by one and all the trees and grounds were snow white from the kiln.

There's a danger in making assumptions...just because one thing happened after another doesn't mean A caused B. It strikes me as unlikely that any emissions from cement kilns could cause such extreme symptoms...there simply isn't anything in strong enough concentrations coming out of those stacks. Most of the concern about cement kilns is the long-term effects, not something that would be apparent immediately after moving into a new home.

Far more likely is that there was something in that new home! I noticed very strong odors from the adhesives used for laying down vinyl flooring in my own house, but it's the things we don't smell that are often the most pernicious. Formaldehyde from foam insulation for one example (I've seen a home in Midlothian with masses of the stuff used in attic rafters; supposedly more energy efficient than more traditional insulation).

I don't disagree with Alex Allred standing up to Rep. Carter's stupidity, but I am concerned that her blame on the cement kilns may be misplaced. For Tommy's sake she ought to look at the more likely environmental factors, and those will be found right there in the house. Also seems odd that if Ms. Allred really believed the cement kilns were to blame for her child's illness, why would she still live there?!? Something doesn't ring true...

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