Friday, April 12, 2024

Biden administration limits pollutants from chemical plants in hope of cutting cancer risks

A federal agency has put restraints on more than 200 chemical plant pollutants.

The action by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a story by Lisa Friedman in editions of The New York Times this week, was aimed at shielding people who live close to plants that release toxic chemicals into the air.

Friedman's story indicates that this is "the first time in nearly two decades that the government has tightened lies on pollution from chemical plants."

The new rule specifically targets ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical devices, and one used to make rubber in footwear, chloroprene. Both, now classified as carcinogens, are considered "as a top health concern in an area of Louisiana so dense with petrochemical and refinery plants that it is know as Cancer Alley," according to the article.

Most of the 200 facilities are in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, as well as in the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia.

Michael S. Regan, EPA administrator, told the Times that the new regulation — which requires the plants to monitor vents and storage tanks for the two chemicals and plug any leaks — would reduce emissions by 80 percent.

The plants, Friedman's piece asserts, "will also be required to reduce emissions of four other toxic chemicals: benzene, which is used in motor fuels as well as oils and paints; 1,3-butadiene, which is used to make synthetic rubber and plastics; and ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, both of which are used to make a variety of plastics and vinyl products."

Patrice Simms
Patrice Simms, vice president for litigation for healthy communities at Earthjustice, an environmental group, is quoted to the effect that "in a very real sense this is about life and death," further contending that it's impossible to overstate the importance of the new regulation to families that live next to large polluting facilities.

Not everyone agrees. The Times says Republicans and industry groups insist the new Biden administration rule is "onerous, and they questioned the EPA's scientific assessment of the chemicals."

More information about risks of disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

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