Air Toxics

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Air Toxics

Read North/Northeast Portland’s Air Pollution Report Here. You will find a map and narrative with facts about industrial facilities and diesel truck pollution. Learn what we can do to improve air quality. 

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Background

In March 2016 NECN endorsed a letter requesting action from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Oregon Health Authority, and Multnomah County Health Department in response to growing public concern over air toxics pollution in numerous Portland neighborhoods. The catalyst for this originated from Portland Mercury’s story, which exposed DEQ data revealing elevated cadmium and arsenic levels in several areas. Days later, DEQ announced their data indicated a monthly average of 49 times the state air-safety benchmark level for cadmium, and 159 times DEQ’s air-safety goal for the carcinogen arsenic. There have been no direct regulatory requirements associated with benchmarks (e.g., testing and emissions controls).

Authorities linked elevated levels of cadmium and arsenic to Bullseye Glass Factory in Southeast Portland. Uroboros Glass Factory has been linked to elevated levels cadmium (it is unclear when Uroboros last used arsenic in it processes). Bullseye and Uroboros Glass Factories voluntarily suspended use of the chemicals related to the heavy metal air pollution findings even though these local businesses were operating within the law.  These findings  prompted DEQ to release rules to bring glass factories under regulation. At the state-level a new program, called “Cleaner Air Oregon” has made a commitment to using human-health based standards to regulate air quality and increase the financial investment in air quality. The Oregon Health Authority will be conducting future Public Health Assessments to evaluate long-term cancer and health risks, and the Department of Environmental Quality will be conducting ongoing air monitoring. At this time, Uroboros Glass Factory is no longer in operation.

Cadmium can increase the risk of lung cancer when inhaled. Cadmium can also damage kidneys when inhaled or swallowed. 2015 data from the U.S. Forest Service found high concentrations of cadmium surrounding Uroboros that are above what is considered safe. State officials linked these findings to the glass factory’s emissions.

Arsenic can increase the risk of lung, bladder and skin cancers. Uroboros used arsenic several years ago. It is unclear exactly when the glass factory stopped using the heavy metal, and no elevated levels of arsenic were found in recent air monitoring around Uroboros.

Chromium-6 can increase the risk of certain lung cancers, after chronic, low-level exposure. Inhaling chromium-6 at very high levels can cause acute respiratory and skin irritation. Uroboros has used chromium-6 in its operations to make colored glass.

Information was collected using Oregon’s State Cancer Registry and census data. Rates of lung and bladder cancer were generally consistent with expected rates in the identified Census tracts in North Portland during 1999–2013. For the years 1999-2003, there was a small, statistically significant increase in the rate of bladder cancer in one area of North Portland, which merits more environmental assessment. Data cannot be used to infer causality between individual cases of cancer and an environmental source. Read study results here and limitations here.

In response to air toxics concerns, NECN has endorsed a letter to the responsible agencies (updated May 24), requesting accurate and comprehensive data, identification of unnamed hotspots, continuous public information and engagement, translated information, and more. The letter is available to all those who wish to use it as a Template Response Letter for their own community response.

Desafortunadamente, no tenemos mucho información en español. Para ver un video explicando la situación sobre la ontaminación atmosférica por metales pesados en Portland, pulsa el enlace aqui. Si quieres mas información, llama 211 o visita la página Safe Air Oregon.

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A summary of timeline of air toxics related events:

2003

DEQ monitored air quality near Jefferson High School

2005-2006

  • DEQ measures air toxics concentration in Portland; Set Air toxics “benchmarks” creating guidelines for 52 pollutants.
  • Finds levels of pollutants in Portland to be above benchmarks.

2007

Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moves to set limits on how much pollution art glass manufacturers can emit; glass industry is exempt from pollution controls

2009-2011

  • Portland Air Toxics Solution Project takes place – focus on reduction strategies and computer modeling to predict air pollution concentrations
  • Harriet Tubman School is monitored – Cadmium was found to be above benchmark levels

2013

  • DEQ finds there are likely “multiple” cadmium sources
  • Partnership with the US Forest Service begins to conduct moss study

2015

  • Moss study cadmium data received by DEQ in May
  • Glass facilities listed as potential sources of metal emissions by DEQ in June
  • DEQ places air monitor in Southeast site near Bullseye Glass manufacturer to capture 24-hour air samples throughout month of October

January/February 2016

  • DEQ completes analysis of air monitoring data showing elevated levels of cadmium and arsenic -the Portland Mecury breaks the story
  • Legislature reserves $2.5 million for air monitoring

March 2016

  • DEQ begins investigations of other art glass making facilities
  • Agencies begin Investigation of air and soil with high levels of aresnic FAQ
  • DEQ asks two glass factories to sign agreement to limit heavy metal use
  • Temporary rules are released by DEQ to prohibit chromium VI, cadmium, and arsenic at glass facilities until emission control devices are installed; prohibits chromium III until maximum usage rate is created
  • Air quality monitoring project begins around Precision Castparts (due to elevated levels of metals identified near the facility in previous studies)
  • Uroboros signs agreement with DEQ to limit heavy metals

April 2016

  • Over 1 Billion Dollar lawsuit filed for SE residents living around Bullseye Glass
  • Governor Brown unveils “Cleaner Air Oregon” calling for “health based standards”
  • EPA says that art glass manufacturers fall under federal regulation created in 2007: “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants” 
  • DEQ passes temporary rules for glass manufacturers
  • Hexavalent Chromium is found above benchmark levels in SE Portland
  • City, County, and Portland State University launch air toxic pollution study
  • Poisonous gas is found on Hayden Island – American Petroleum is suspected
  • DEQ releases list of 300+ businesses with permits to emit heavy metals – will prioritize inspections

May 2016

  • Spike in lead is found near Bullseye Glass. Governor Brown issues cease and desist order.

June 2016

  • Bullseye signs “Mutual Agreement and Final Order” two days before Cease and Desist expires

September 2016

  • Uroboros Art Glass announces that it is closing

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Resources for those wanting more information

If you would like to speak with an attorney because you are concerned about the glass factories, you can contact Dan Matthew Preusch or Dan Mensher with Keller Rohrback lawfirm. Toll free: 800.776.6044. Email: info@kellerrohrback.com Environmental practice page: http://krcomplexlit.com/practiceareas/environmental-litigation/ Bullseye class action case page: http://krcomplexlit.com/currentcases/bullseye-glass-co-class-action/

You can talk to you doctor about urine testing for cadmium. Arsenic and chromium are quickly eliminated from the body and urine testing for these is not likely to be helpful in assessment of chronic exposure. If you currently live, work, or go to school within a half mile from Uroboros, you can call 971-673-3308 to determine if you qualify for free testing.  The Oregon Health Plan will cover urine cadmium testing for members who live in the highest-risk areas. Most private insurance will cover the cost of cadmium testing for people who live near Uroboros. The Oregon Health Authority does not recommend testing for everyone at this time.