Texas Dust Storms Unleash Red Dust Particles Causing Major Health Concerns for Residents of Texas Gulf Towns
By: chris.placitella @ Oct 22, 2010
The Associated Press released an article today titled, “Red Dust Worries Residents Near US Metals Plants: Residents Near Metals Plants In Texas And Louisiana Worry About Health Affects From Red Dust Storms”, which details the worries of the residents of Point Comfort, Texas and Louisiana. As the weather conditions over south Texas due to Tropical Storm Hermine continue to move inland, spreading torrential rain and high winds across the region, the residents of this Texas Gulf Coast town, worry about the effects that storms will have on the alumina refineries which populate their area.
The storms are creating hazy storms of dust, coating lawns, trucks and traffic lights, and thus are also coating the lungs of the people who live in these areas, according to the article. The article also points out that “it is unclear whether the red dust is harmful to health. Environmental regulators say the potentially dangerous metals found in the dust are in harmless trace amounts. Mannan, however, points out that even the most benign dust particles, in large quantities, can be detrimental to those with respiratory problems.”
According to the article, Terri Austin, who is a 47-year-old resident of Point Comfort, Texas worries about the affects of the red dust particles to her health. Her father who grew up in Point Comfort and worked for Alcoa for 30 years, died at age 65, seven years after he was diagnosed with an asbestos-linked cancer. According to the article, “like many structures built in the early 20th century, the plant was packed with asbestos.”
Also in Texas, within the bay’s sediment exist thousands of pounds of mercury that leaked for decades, making the area one of the nation’s largest clean-up efforts, according to the article, and also, a site known by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “so contaminate that they require complex, long-term cleanups.”
Eddy Arnold, Jr., a worker in the plant’s now shutdown alkaline facility said in the article, “I actually saw the beads of mercury running into the bay…I told my supervisor and he said, “well, you didn’t see anything.”
The unfortunate part of all of this is that it is currently unknown what the effects of the storms will be that will continue to hit parts of Texas and Louisiana the rest of the week, according to all news reports. The concern for residents remains about the health and well-being of themselves and their families and friends. The existence of mercury as well as asbestos, being exposed into the air is a major health concern. Even though, according to the article, “environmental regulators say the potentially dangerous metals found in the dust are in harmless trace amounts. Mannan, however, points out that even the most benign dust particles, in large quantities, can be detrimental to those with respiratory problems.” From experience with these cases, I know that we may not uncover the long terms effects of this storm, until 30 years later, or perhaps even longer.
Since the U.S. dries red mud which can turn into red dust and stored in reservoirs, breezy days such as these storms are producing, will continue to blow particles in the air, and we just don’t know how many people will be affected by this either through respiratory problems or asbestos-related diseases in the years to come.
Even though federal and state regulations require the cleaner operations on behalf of companies and are required to monitor the air emissions, groundwater and other pollutants, the regulators continue to fine corporations for violations. According to this article, “people generally keep quiet because they want to keep their jobs.” When the health and safety of their workers are at risk, it is an abolishment of decency for corporations and their corporate staff to not speak up, and in our experience, it may be years later, but eventually someone speaks, and the truth, whatever it may be, is uncovered.
You can read the full article here: https://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/22/ap/business/main6980729.shtml
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