Major health problems cited as result of toxic cement plants
By 12/12/2002 00:00:00
The Ellis County Press
MIDLOTHIAN - Health problems associated with Ellis County's cement plants are nothing new.
The only published survey of human health in the area surrounding the cement plants found a 30 percent higher rate of respiratory problems among those living downwind or in close proximity to the Midlothian cement plants - but plant officials deny health it.
'We're not doing anything to harm any residents in the area,' said former Midlothian mayor and current Texas Industries spokesman Maurice Osborne.The study was conducted by a University of Texas toxicologist in 1997-98, according to the environmental group Downwinders at Risk.
Plants, including TXI, have recorded ozone violations repeatedly, prompting Gov. Rick Perry to discuss strengthening regulations with the help of the Environmental Protection Agency.
'Everything else put out by industry and the state claiming to find no damage to human health relies on soil, air and water sampling to estimate exposure at ‘safe' or ‘unsafe' levels,' said Katy Hubener, executive director of Blue Skies Alliance, a local air advocacy group. 'There's such an atmospheric ‘toxic soup' of so many different chemicals reacting with one another and assaulting your system simultaneously that, in fact, no one can say you're safe to breath the stuff.'
Many of the chemicals, including Arsenic, particle matter and lead, are known to cause cancer.
Almost 30 doctors around Midlothian and southern Dallas County have said their offices are visited by residents who complain of respitory problems they associate with living near the cement plants.Their joint statement is posted on the Downwinders at Risk website at http://www.downwindersatrisk.org. Osborne said Midlothian is the 'most-tested' site in the state and TXI would know if it caused health problems.'Claims have been out there all along,' he said. 'But they [claims] haven't been substantiated. We've asked them to show us the scientific evidence. Scientific evidence shows that TXI doesn't do any harm to the general public.'
Osborne said a $2 million independent study found no harmful chemicals were found in soil and water samples.
However, according to self-reported data by TXI to the EPA in 2000, large amounts of toxic and hazardous waste were found, including but not limited to mercury, lead and dioxin, which has been linked to birth defects, asthma, skin and eye irritation, and even sexual reproductive disorders in some people.Midlothian's four cement plants, TXI, Holcim, North Texas Cement, and Chaparral Steel, produce the area's most air pollution, according to EPA statistics from a 2000 report.
The four companies pump out 1,403 tons of toxic waste each year, compared to 74 tons from all of Dallas County and 55 tons from Tarrant County. 'I've had people in Midlothian call me to tell me that their dogs are dying, their cows can't reproduce,' she said. 'I had one woman call and tell me her hair was literally falling out.
'How could Maurice say that hazardous waste doesn't harm children, or how could he say particle matter doesn't affect people,' Hubener asked.
TXI, according to Osborne, has won numerous EPA awards as a sign of their commitment to the community.
'We'd have our permits pulled [if we caused harm],' Osborne said.
'I don't think the EPA could be handing out awards if we did.'