Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chemical Waste Site May Cause Birth Defects

Sometimes while I am standing in the cold asking for petition signatures and getting ignored, I think that being an activist is just an exhausting and pointless career choice. But then I read stories like this am reminded that all of our surveying and petitioning you outside of your grocery store does have a real world impact.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a group of environmental justice activists were surveying the Kettleman City community and found an alarming amount of birth defects. Of the 20 babies born within the last 15 months, 5 had cleft palates and 3 of them died. The residents of the community believe it has to do with the landfill near their homes.

This farming town is located near the largest landfill in the west, which is also the only landfill in California licensed to accept carcinogenic PCBs. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer (CANCER!) and have serious effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine system. So PCBs are only harmful to your entire body, makes sense to put it next to a community (sarcasm!). According to the LA Times article, this specific waste dump was also recorded in 2003 as one of 22 facilities in California with unusually high radiation. So the community clearly has reason to inquire.

An activist being interviewed said that since they stumbled upon the problem and made it public, not one agency has bothered to investigate. What makes me sick is the comment by a Kings County health officer in an interview. The officer said:

"I understand why people are concerned. But most of the time, when we are talking about small numbers such as these, they are just random occurrences.”

So it sounds like if only 3 kids die then it is not worth investigating. What if one of those 3 kids was yours, sir? I mean, if Chemical Waste Management Inc., which owns the landfill site, is pressing for an outside an investigation and chastising the county for not doing so, what is the hesitation!? Please don’t tell me money.

Where is Erin Brockovich when you need her!

Image source: L.A. Times

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