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