Health Dangers—very real and very frightening.
There is much more than just the problem of an ugly scar being added to our mountains. This expansion would make the already terrible effects on Azusa, Duarte, Irwindale, Glendora and many other cities in the area much worse. If the pit is expanded onto the top of Van Tassel Ridge, the dust pollution that is now somewhat limited inside the canyon, would be exposed to stronger winds, which could carry it directly into Azusa and to many other towns, bringing all the health dangers it may carry.
There is quite a lot of information on this page of our website, but we urge you to read it all. This is extremely important information that has not been provided to all of us who are breathing the dust from these open pit mines. Everything you will read on this website is backed up by references to legitimate sources. At the end of this page you will find Internet links (in blue and underlined) to the reputable websites that are shown here and you can click on each of those links to confirm the proof. The statements presented here can be verified with information from organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency, California EPA, and the American Cancer Society. Or take the issue closer to home and ask your family doctor, or your school nurse about the danger of breathing dust, especially from minerals like crystalline silica.
Because all of them will tell you truthfully that BREATHING DUST IS DANGEROUS! It is one of the most dangerous forms of air pollution, especially when the dust particles are very small, so small you may not even be able to see them floating in the air, those tiny particles are easier to inhale and get lodged inside your lungs.
Now Vulcan has told us how their company is very concerned about this problem, and are doing all kinds of things to try and control this dust, like sprinkling water, running sweeper trucks on the street outside their plant, and putting up signs with a telephone number to call if you see dust.
But we all know none of that is solving the problem. Scientists, doctors and health experts can confirm the danger, but you and I don't have to be rocket scientists to know where the dust is coming from and that is spreads all over the San Gabriel Valley, throughout our towns and our homes. There is a constant line of trucks coming in and out of the Vulcan entrance at Foothill Boulevard and Irwindale, all shaking off the dust and also spewing out carcinogenic diesel exhaust.
Going in all day
Coming out all day
Giving off lots of diesel exhaust too
The determined little sweeper comes out every 10 or 15 minutes, all day long and sweeps the dust up off the street, but he does not sweep up the center median strip. That leaves tell-tale evidence of how much dust actually escapes from the many dump trucks each day, spreading the deadly dust all over town, city, all over the valley, into our homes and into our lungs..
. . .
Dust on Irwindale Ave.
And more dust is generated from loading the trucks, carrying rocks/dust on the conveyor, crushing the rock, and digging it up. An auto painting business owner on Foothill near Irwindale said they have to constantly rewash the newly painted cars to keep the dust from ruining the paint before it can be polished out, recoated, buffed and delivered to their customers. One customer whose office was very close to the Vulcan entrance brought back his car with the new paint ruined by the dust and grit falling onto the paint from the rock crushing operation.
Think about the last time you had your car washed and waxed, then parked it in front of your house. And a day or so later the dust was so thick on it that your husband said the kids were writing WASH ME PLEASE on it.
Think about when you planned that big barbecue party and washed off the patio furniture, then the next morning your wife went out in her new, white party dress and sat down on a lawn chair, and the dress had to be sent to the cleaners because it was so filthy.
Think about getting out that can of spray wax and a dust rag to dust off every piece of furniture in the house before Aunt Suzie and Uncle Albert came to visit, then a day later the dust is so thick on the furniture you can see it, and this is INSIDE your house!
We all know the dust is there because we see it when it falls on everything in town.
Yes, it is true that these little problems are a pain in the neck to put up with. But think about this: How many times do you breathe in 5 seconds? Count it right now. One-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, one-thousand four, one-thousand five. Was that about 5 times you inhaled?
Now multiply that times 12 for every minute, times 60 for every hour, times 24 for every day, times 365 for every year. How many times will you breathe in this dust during your lifetime? How much of it is getting into your lungs, the lungs of your family - even indoors, and your children when they play outside? Children are much more susceptible than adults because they breathe faster and their lungs are still developing. The elderly are also in very much more danger from air pollution in the form of dust.
Dust that gets into your lungs, and absorbed into the tissue, is proven to cause bronchitis, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, and other illnesses.
VERY SCARY INFORMATION ABOUT THIS DUST IN OUR AIR
This dust contains something called silica or crystalline silica. We know for certain it is there because OSHA, the US government Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires Vulcan to warn the employees who work in their quarry, their rock crusher, and around the areas where they move the rock and gravel. Vulcan has to issue a Material Data Safety Sheet.
Here you see four pages of information about what comes out of the Vulcan pits in Azusa.
But we need to look closely at the information in these pages. It states very clearly that the dust contains crystalline silica.
It says right here that if your inhale this dust repeatedly, it will lead to silicosis, a fatal and incurable disease:
Dusts may irritate the nose, throat, and respiratory tract by mechanical
abrasion. Coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath
This is not "MAYBE" it contains silica, not "MAYBE" it causes a fatal, incurable disease. It says very clearly right there that IT DOES! OSHA requires that workers exposed to this dust have to wear masks, limit the amount of time they are exposed to it, and be checked for medical problems that it causes. OSHA also says that Silicosis occurs after 15-20 years of MODERATE TO LOW exposure. But nobody warns the people who live near the Vulcan plant and inhale that dust 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without a breathing mask. In fact, Congresswoman Hilda Solis and Henry Waxman had their staff do research on the dangers of the gravel mines and crushers in Irwindale and surrounding areas in 2002 (copy available from SVT). The researchers (who were obviously very frustrated by encountering resistance from the gravel companies and the government agencies who are supposed to watch for problems like this) concluded that:
"It appears likely that the mining operations (in the Azusa-Irwindale area) contribute significantly to air pollution in Irwindale and neighboring communities. But an accurate, comprehensive risk assessment of the effects of the gravel mining operations is currently not possible given the available data...Data on pollutant releases...was not provided or is outdate...Many of the mining operations do not appear to be required to report their air emissions...There appears to be little direct monitoring...Many of the mining operations do not hold environmental permits...Moreover, an average citizen or community group would be unlikely to have access, expertise and time to conduct an investigation...people most directly affected by the gravel mining operations do not have access to any meaningful health and environmental information about a dominant industry in their community."
How frustrating that must have been to Congress members Solis and Waxman and their researchers, to find out there is a major problem but then get no cooperation from the government agencies who are supposed to be watching out for our health. How much more frustrating it must be for the people who live near this toxic dust generator and have to breathe it constantly, and watch their children come down with asthma, to watch their older family members fighting against lung diseases from breathing this stuff all their lives, to realize that everyone in the city and the valley will suffer as they inhale this poison.
What do medical experts say about silica dust and the diseases it causes? There is a large amount of information that is easily available from very reputable organizations on their websites.
The (IARC) International Agency for Research on Cancer - a part of the World Health Organization - says that crystalline silica, the exact material listed in the Vulcan Material Data Safety Sheet, has been shown to cause a higher death rate from lung cancer, according to the IARC website:
"Seventeen cohort and five case-control studies were repeated on ore miners potentially exposed to silica dust. The majority of these studies reported an elevated mortality for lung cancer among silica-exposed workers." ("Silica," IARC - International Agency for Research on Cancer, September 7, 2005.)
The Natural Resources Defense Council, dedicated to protecting the environment and researching dangers and damage from pollution, says that particles (dust) floating in the air and inhaled by people are the cause of increased disease and death, according to many studies published in scientific journals. Their website points out that older people and those with lung problems are at the highest risk for fatal complications caused by dust.
"More than two dozen communities health studies since 1987 have linked particulate pollution to reductions in lung function, increased hospital and emergency room admissions, and premature deaths. Recently, two major epidemiological studies (by the American Cancer Society and Harvard University) were published that showed that people living in more polluted cities had an increased risk of premature death compared to those in cleaner cities." ("NRDC: Particulate Pollution FAQ," Natural Resources Defense Council, September 7, 2005)
The California Environmental Protection Agency (CAL-EPA) says that the greatest concern about air pollution is dust with very small particles. These are most easily inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs and can bypass the body's natural defenses against fighting infection. The people in the greatest danger are the elderly, children and anyone with asthma or other breathing problems. Asthma just happens to be a serious problem for many children in the Azusa schools and it can be caused by toxic dust, or made worse if a child already has asthma.
"Particulate matter pollution consists of very small liquid and solid particles floating in the air. Of greatest concern to public health are the particles small enough to be inhaled into the deepest part of the lung. These particles are less than 10 microns in diameter - about 1/7th the thickness of a human hair - and are known as PM10. This includes fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5.
PM 10 is a major component of air pollution that threatens both our health and our environment.
PM10 is among the most harmful of all air pollutants. When inhaled, these particles evade the respiratory system's natural defenses and lodge deep in the lungs.
Health problems begin as the body reacts to these foreign particles. PM10 can increase the number and severity of asthma attacks, cause or aggravate bronchitis and other lung diseases and reduce the body's ability to fight infections.
Although particulate matter can cause health problems for everyone, certain people are especially vulnerable to PM10's adverse health effects. These "sensitive populations" include children, the elderly, exercising adults, and those suffering from asthma or bronchitis.
Of greatest concern are recent studies that link PM10 exposure to the premature death of people who already have heart and lung disease, especially the elderly." (Consumer Information: Air Pollution - Particulate Matter Brochure," California Environmental Protection Agency, September 7, 2005)
The Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has a document on its website specifically devoted to the danger that air pollution causes for children. The lungs of a child are just developing, and they breathe much faster than adults, bringing in more of any pollution that is floating in the air. Children spend much more time outside in the air containing so many particles of this dust, and they are more likely to be exercising or playing, breathing harder and more often.
"Why are Children More Susceptible to Air Pollution Than Adults?
In many health effects research studies, children are considered as if they were small adults. This is not really true. There are many differences between children and adults in the ways that they respond to air pollution. For example, children take in more air per unit body weight at a given level of exertion than do adults. When a child is exercising at maximum levels, such as during a soccer game or other sports event, they may take in 20 percent to 50 percent more air - and more air pollution - than would an adult in comparable activity...
Children also spend more time outside than adults. The average adult, except for those who work mostly outdoors, spends most of their time indoors - at home, AT work, or even at the gym. Children spend more time outside, and are often outdoors during periods when air pollution is at its highest...
USC Children's Health Study
Recent results from the Children's Health Study, conducted by investigators aT the University of Southern California, suggest that children with asthma are at much greater risk of increased asthma symptoms when they live in communities with higher levels of ozone and particles and participate in three or more competitive sports." ("The Health Effects of Air Pollution on Children," South Coast Air Quality Management District, September 7, 2005)
The American Lung Association website shows the results of studies which indicate that cities and towns with these very small particles have a 17% higher death rate than areas where the air is cleaner. These extremely fine particles often cannot be seen floating in the air, only when they appear after building up on surfaces like cars and furniture. Even LOW concentrations of these particles result in earlier death for those who breathe in such dirty air.
"NATURE AND SOURCES OF THE POLLUTANT
Particulate matter is the generic term used for a type of air pollution that consists of complex and varying mixtures of particles suspended in the air we breathe...
Particulate pollution comes from such diverse sources as factory and utility smokestacks, vehicle exhaust, wood burning, mining, construction activity, and agriculture.
Particles of special concern to the protection of lung health are those known as fine particles, less than 2.5 microns in diameter. (For comparison, a human hair is about 75 microns in diameter.) Fine particles are easily inhaled deeply into the lungs where they can be absorbed into the bloodstream or remain embedded for long periods of time. A recent study showed a 17% increase in mortality risk in areas with higher concentrations of small particles.
Particulate matter air pollution is especially harmful to people with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Exposure to particulate air pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause wheezing, coughing, and respiratory irritation in individuals with sensitive airways.
Recent research has also linked exposure to relatively low concentrations of particulate matter with premature death. Those at greatest risk are the elderly and those with pre-existing respiratory or heart disease." ("Particulate Matter," American Lung Association, September 7, 2005)
In a recent interview, one of our Save Our Canyon members spoke to Dr. Eugene Roberts, who is with the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte. Doctor Roberts is a neurobiochemist, and a greatly respected researcher who studies the effects of inhaled particles (especially silica dust) on human health. His research papers are extremely detailed examinations of how the materials we inhale get into not only the lungs and air passages, but how it can actually get into the brain and central nervous system. When we inhale and smell something, we can tell if it is perfume, or apple pie, or bleach or vinegar, because very small particles of the material are absorbed into the brain as the material passes through the nasal passages right next to the brain. Then the brain reacts to those particles and remembers what that smell is.
In both the lungs and the brain, inhaled silicates cause an actual transformation of the lung or brain tissue that makes it extremely difficult for the organs to function correctly. The research Doctor Roberts has done convinces him that there is a definite connection between inhaled silica materials and Alzheimer's disease (as well as the already established links with lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, and silicosis). Doctor Roberts commended the SVT group for the work it is doing and expressed his sincere hope that we would be successful in our battle to end this pollution that is ruining our air and damaging our health.
According to a report by the Center for Science in Public Participation, the kind of mining done at Vulcan Materials should not be permitted, because of proximity to residential neighborhoods:
"The following recommendations are made to better manage environmental problems and mitigate the effects of aggregate, stone, and industrial mineral mines.
- Deny permits to mines that propose locating in areas unsuited for mining. Mines should not be allowed to operate near Native American “sacred sites,” residential neighborhoods, historic rural communities, or in areas where the resulting “scar” will ruin a scenic viewshed. ("Environmental Impacts of Aggregate and Stone Mining New Mexico Case Study," Center for Science in Public Participation)
The bottom line: There is a serious question about the safety of the dust floating in the air we breathe every hour of every day. We need to insist that the government agencies responsible for protecting us examine and analyze the dust in the air we breathe, reveal whether it is dangerous, and protect us if it is. Operations that pollute the air MUST completely control their dangerous pollution, or be relocated to isolated areas where they will not threaten the health of such a large number of innocent victims.
Cited References and More Information:
- Vulcan MSDS for Sand and Gravel
- Environmental Effects of Gravel Mining in Irwindale, CA: Basic Information Is Not Available to Assess Health and Environmental Risks to the Community Prepared for Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis and Congressman Henry A. Waxman
- Rule 1157 – PM10 Emission Reductions from Aggregate and Related Operations (Air Quality Management District)
- AQMD Study: The Health Effects of Air Pollution on Children
- California EPA: Air Pollution - Particulate Matter Brochure
- American Lung Association
- INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH ON CANCER
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- South Coast Air Quality Management District
- Pulmonary Review
- British Study Insurance
- SD Earth Times
- What is Particulate Matter
- Silicosis / Silica - Overview
- Center for Science in Public Participation
- NIOSH HAZARD REVIEW Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica (Center for Disease Control)
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