Thursday, November 17, 2011

Air pollution in your neighborhood? Click on this map

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 4:36 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency was conceptualized by former President Richard Nixon in the summer of 1970 with the mission to establish and enforce “environmental protection standards consistent with national environmental goals,” according to its website.

But decades later, glaring issues still linger with hundreds — conservatively — of communities (some of them close to home as reported by MT) still dealing with health problems caused by airborne toxic pollutants.

That’s the focus of the new series produced by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity titled “Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities.”

The documentary examines the failures of the Clean Air Act, a law enacted at the same time of the EPA’s conception, which has seen significant amendments three times – the most recent in 1990. Congress’ intention with the law was to require the EPA to enforce regulations that protect the public from airborne contaminants harmful to human health.

It might be time to consider a new amendment.

A team of reporters spent nine-months digging up and researching EPA databases that reflect progress (or lack of) made since the Clean Air Act was amended.

Amidst their investigation, they discovered a “watch list” that the EPA’s kept locked away of over 400 facilities considered continual Clean Air Act violators that haven’t been forced to follow what the law outlines.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. who authored the 1990 amendment told NPR:

"I don't think it's a great deal of comfort to tell somebody whose kids may develop brain damage or the adults in the neighborhood who may get cancer that overall we're reducing toxic air pollutants. It doesn't help them. What will help them is that the industries that are in their area actually control the pollution and stop poisoning the people."

The EPA’s inspector general said in a 2007 report of the list: “(It) tracks facilities with serious or chronic noncompliance that have not received formal enforcement action.”

The gargantuan amount of research culminated in the group releasing an incredibly detailed interactive map that shows 17,000 facilities that continue to release poisonous chemicals into the air.

If you’re interested in seeing how your particular zip code stacks up in the realm of all-things-pollution then it’s definitely worth a visit. The map uses color-coded dots and a scale from 1-to-5 five based on how the EPA assesses potential health risks in airborne toxins from a given facility.

More by Ryan Felton

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