Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: <i>It’s not pollution, it’s the smell of freedom</i> .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Monday, March 07, 2005

It’s not pollution, it’s the smell of freedom

State agency says toxins in air pose no immediate health threat


A little over a month ago I expressed hope that attention was finally being paid to Houston's air quality. After a study in 2003 showed toxic levels of 1,3-butadiene, a byproduct from chemical manufacturing, and was later confirmed by another independent study, it seemed that something was going to be done. Actvists mobilized, joined by city, state, and county officials.

Town hall meetings were held, none of which were attended by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) officials. Now TCEQ is holding their own meetings in civic centers in the Ship Channel area, and they're telling a different story.

Michael Honeycutt, head of the TCEQ's toxicology division, said in an e-mail after the meeting that the cancer risks stated in the January report were "overpredictive." He said one could assume that concentrations of 1,3-butadiene were lower in the community because it was farther away from the industrial sources of the emissions than the pollution monitor.

These guys figure that the toxins will remain at at the testing site or dissipate into the wind. Be that as it may, the odors from these plants permeate the air for miles around. Accidental emissions occur regularly, along with the usual "acceptable" emission levels. So, is it safe to live and breathe in these neighborhoods?

Also, the risk estimates calculated didn't reflect that people spend only 10 percent of their time outdoors.

So, you only have to worry if you spend more than a tenth of your day outdoors. That makes me feel better. So the initial study was wrong?

After the report came out, a letter from then-Texas City Mayor Carlos Garza's office obtained by the Chronicle said the analysis "has the propensity to precipitate an unjustified overreaction" and that while the facts appeared accurate "the narrative has unnecessary and borderline inflammatory remarks."

Doug Hoover, Texas City's executive director of management services, who wrote the letter, said the TCEQ responded by holding a public meeting.

"They didn't say they did anything blatantly wrong," Hoover recalled. "But they suggested the results of the study could be worded differently."


Oh, I get it. The initial report contained accurate data, but it shouldn't have used the C-word, 'cause that got people worried that the toxic chemicals could be bad for you. In the spirit of newspeak, perhaps they should have considered using "personal cellular conditioning" or maybe even "freedom lung". Then us little people could go blissfully on with our daily lives. What's left of them anyway.

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