Pollution Trends Shift from Rust Belt to Sun Belt


| February 10, 2003


Toxic pollution historically linked to the industrial sectors of the Northeast and Midwest have shifted to the South, according to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) summarizing industrial pollution from 1987-2000. In 2000 alone, more than a billion pounds of chemicals suspected to cause neurological illnesses were released in Texas, Tennessee, and Louisiana. An alarming number of these environmental toxins are concentrated in small areas: 76 percent of all chemicals linked to potential reproductive disorders appeared in only 10 zip codes.

State and federal governments have been slow to respond to these statistics, which represent less than 1 percent of the estimated 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Few states even track human exposures to toxic discharges; California, Iowa, and Massachusetts are the only states that register cases of cancer, birth defects, and asthma. ?Polluters across the country discharge billions of pounds of toxic pollution linked to serious health impacts each year,? said U.S. PIRG environmental health associate Meghan Purvis. ?But without adequate public health systems for tracking environmental exposures and potentially related diseases, we don?t know how this pollution is affecting our health.?

Last year Congress approved funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create pilot projects in 20 states to create a nationwide health tracking network. The Senate is expected to increase that funding to $30 million in the 2003 fiscal year. U.S.PIRG has urged Congressional leaders to maintain that increased level of spending. ?It should be an urgent priority for federal decision-makers to establish nationwide health tracking systems so that toxic impacts on health can be monitored and prevented. At the same time, toxics exposures should be reduced and eliminated.?
?Erin Ferdinand

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