Magazine article The Progressive

Neighbors Fight Polluters

Magazine article The Progressive

Neighbors Fight Polluters

Article excerpt

Joe Perales lost his youngest son to cancer last year. Perales believes that environmental toxins killed his son Alex, who was fourteen years old. He says the piles of documents--maps, studies, news clippings--on the kitchen table support his theory.

Alex attended Suva Intermediate School. The school stands next to two chrome-plating plants, which the EPA designated as Superfund sites in the early 1990s because of soil contamination. Only a chain-link fence separates the playground from the contaminated factories.

"Kids are going to that school, and there's no notification to anyone that there are cancer-causing agents in the air, in the ground, and in the water," says Perales.

After Alex was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, Perales says he found twenty people associated with Suva School, a local elementary school, who died of cancer during a seven-year period. Then he met Carlos Porras, director of Los Angeles Communities for a Better Environment, who told him that in 1988 seven of eleven pregnant women who worked at Suva School miscarried or aborted their fetuses because of severe deformities. Teachers pressured the South Coast Air Quality Management District (a regional air-quality board for the Los Angeles basin set up by the state legislature) to start an air monitor at the school. A carcinogen called hexavalent chromium, known to cause birth defects, miscarriages, and infertility, was present in such high concentrations that the Air Quality Management District estimated it could cause as many as 7,200 cancer deaths per million residents.

But the agency said there was no need for emergency action, though it did adopt new standards--effective in 1990--that limit hexavalent-chromium emissions at individual plants.

Perales is not satisfied. The new rules brought down emissions at each plant, he says. …

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