> Bradley Angel
> Trail of Toxins: Mountain View to Arizona
> Bradley Angel is Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and
> Environmental Justice, a non-profit organization engaged in
> action-oriented dynamic campaigning in support of diverse
> community struggles for health and environmental justice, and
> for real solutions to problems of industrial pollution and government
> inaction in the face of the health and environmental crisis.
> Former Greenpeace toxics campaigner Bradley Angel will describe
> the opposition to the processing of carbon filters containing TCE
> from Mountain View's Superfund sites at a hazardous waste facility
> at the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation in Arizona. The filters
> that kept toxins out of local air will be superheated in Arizona,
> releasing dioxins, among the most harmful chemicals known to man,
> into the air.
Bradley Angel began his talk by sharing a bit more about his background. He grew up on Long Island in New York, where his mother and many of her girlfriends got fatal cases of breast cancer in their 30s. The cause of that cancer cluster has not yet been thoroughly identified, but there were many polluters in the area, and it could be that the problem was caused by the cumulative effect of all of them. The area is still a national hot spot for breast cancer concentrations on a per capita basis. The situation inspired him to work to clean up our environment, so that the same problem won't happen to too many others. He worked as a GreenPeace toxics campaign coordinator for 12 years, having many victories closing toxic waste dumps and incinerators. That ended about six years ago, when GreenPeace International decided to get out of fighting land based battles inside the USA. At that time he founded GreenAction with some friends to continue the work.
Bradley continued with some general background on toxic racism. The problem began in the 1950s, when they were trying to figure out where to put the trash that was being generated in Los Angeles. A commission put out a report analyzing the options, and decided that the places where people would object the least were the ones where the indigenous were already living in fear with poor education and little access to the media or other sources of information about what was going on. Since then many very polluting sites have been located in poor communities, making toxic racism an uncomfortable fact of life (and cause of cancer, etc.) for many people.
The facility in Arizona that our TCE filled charcoal filters are going to is one of those places. For 12 years now it has been operating on Colorado River Indian Tribes land. The facility was installed promising to only emit steam. Only recently have they admitted to having dioxins in the place's smokestack output. They still don't have all the permits they are supposed to have to emit toxic wastes. There are cancer clusters in the area, but it can't be proven that they were caused by the incinerator because a lot of agricultural chemicals are used in the area, which is also downwind from the open air nuclear tests that happened during the early days of the atomic bomb. Whatever truth, Bradley is certain that preventing further dioxin contamination there is a good idea.
Angel reminded us that dioxin contamination is a problem we all share at this point in time. Dioxins are caused by burning plastics that have chlorine in them, and there is enough of that out there that we all have concentrations of the stuff in our bodies that are great enough that it doesn't take much more to put someone over the limit, at which point they would get cancer, leukemia, diabetes, or some other problem that used to be rare but is now ever more common. He pointed to an EPA study that showed dioxins were responsible for even such things as reduced sperm counts in guys and breast cancer in women. Women are lucky because they can reduce their risk for breast cancer by downloading their dioxins into their babies by breast feeding. Dioxin creation should be avoided as much as possible was his main message. Because it is a persistent organic pollutant (POP), once created it is with us for a long time.
Bradley feels that in the long run the solution is pollution prevention. One of the big successes he had so far is getting a medical waste incinerator in Oakland to shut down. This was made possible by getting the company to switch to sterilizing the waste and then landfilling it with other hazardous waste.