Toxic air rules tougher amid can­cer wor­ries

Busi­nesses must fur­ther re­duce emis­sions or warn neigh­bors of risks.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Tony Bar­boza

Dozens of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing oil re­finer­ies, aerospace plants and metal fac­to­ries, will face new re­quire­ments to re­duce toxic emis­sions or no­tify their neigh­bors of the health risks from their op­er­a­tions un­der rules ap­proved Fri­day by air qual­ity of­fi­cials.

The move by the South Coast Air Qual­ity Man­age­ment Dis­trict gov­ern­ing board fol­lows new guide­lines from state en­vi­ron­men­tal of- fi­cials that es­ti­mate the can­cer risk from toxic air con­tam­i­nants is nearly three times what ex­perts pre­vi­ously thought.

While air pol­lu­tion has de­clined sharply in Cal­i­for­nia in re­cent decades, new re­search shows that breath­ing toxic com­pounds poses greater health risks to young chil­dren than sci­en­tists had es­ti­mated.

South­ern Cal­i­for­nia busi­ness groups had ob­jected to the more strin­gent rules, which would af­fect as many as 90 fa­cil­i­ties across the re­gion. The changes will cost busi­nesses about $1.9 mil­lion a year in new health stud­ies, no­ti­fi­ca­tion re­quire­ments and pol­lu­tion con­trols, ac­cord­ing to the South

Coast air dis­trict.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists sup­ported the mea­sures.

“We need the gov­ern­ment to up­date their reg­u­la­tions to bet­ter pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties, fam­i­lies and chil­dren,” said Adrian Martinez, a lawyer for the en­vi­ron­men­tal law non­profit Earthjus­tice.

The air dis­trict’s cur­rent rules gov­ern about 400 fa­cil­i­ties across Los An­ge­les, Or­ange, River­side and San Bernardino coun­ties that emit pol­lu­tants such as ar­senic, ben­zene and toxic met­als that put sur­round­ing res­i­dents at in­creased risk of can­cer and other health prob­lems. For 25 years, those fa­cil­i­ties have been stud­ied and mon­i­tored un­der the state’s Air Tox­ics Hot Spots pro­gram.

When can­cer risk at one of those fa­cil­i­ties ex­ceeds 10 in 1 mil­lion, the op­er­a­tor is re­quired to no­tify neigh­bors and hold public meet­ings.

If the risk reaches 25 in 1 mil­lion, the fa­cil­ity must take steps to re­duce emis­sions. A level of 25 in 1 mil­lion means that air pol­lu­tion from the fa­cil­ity could re­sult in 25 can­cer cases per 1 mil­lion peo­ple over a 30-year pe­riod.

Un­der the new rules, about 87 of those 400 fa­cil­i­ties will have to com­plete ad­di­tional health-risk as­sess­ments, 42 will have to is­sue public no­ti­fi­ca­tions and 22 may have to re­duce can­cer risk by cut­ting their emis­sions, ac­cord­ing to air dis- trict es­ti­mates.

Ear­lier this year, many South­land busi­ness groups urged the air dis­trict to re­lax its re­quire­ments and re­duce the bur­den on com­pa­nies. The rules, they said, will force busi­nesses to no­tify sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties that health risks from their op­er­a­tions are on the rise even if their fa­cil­ity’s emis­sions have stayed the same or de­creased.

In a Fe­bru­ary let­ter, the Los An­ge­les County Busi­ness Fed­er­a­tion urged the air dis­trict to “avoid un­nec­es­sar­ily alarm­ing the public while harm­ing lo­cal busi­nesses and our econ­omy.” At the air dis­trict’s public hear­ing Fri­day, only a few busi­ness groups crit­i­cized the pro­posal.

The state’s re­vised air tox­ics guide­lines re­sulted from sci­en­tific stud­ies over the last decade that show young chil­dren and in­fants are more sen­si­tive to toxic air pol­lu­tants than pre­vi­ously thought. Past es­ti­mates were based on adults and did not ac­count for how breath­ing the same pol­lu­tants early in child­hood might raise the risk of de­vel­op­ing can­cer later in life.

More than 30 other pol­lu­tion-con­trol dis­tricts in Cal­i­for­nia are mak­ing sim­i­lar changes to air tox­ics rules to im­ple­ment the new healthrisk guide­lines.

Sev­eral hun­dred fa­cil­i­ties across the state could face ad­di­tional pol­lu­tion­con­trol and no­ti­fi­ca­tion re- quire­ments, ac­cord­ing to the state Air Re­sources Board.

The new rules come amid a decades-long decline in air pol­lu­tion in Cal­i­for­nia as a re­sult of years of emis­sion­scut­ting reg­u­la­tions. A re­port last fall by the South Coast air dis­trict found can­cer risk from air pol­lu­tion in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia has dropped 65% since 2005, largely be­cause of plum­met­ing emis­sions from diesel trucks, ships and other soot-belch­ing ve­hi­cles.

De­spite that progress, South­ern Cal­i­for­ni­ans still con­tend with the high­est can­cer risk from air pol­lu­tion in the state, with the worst lev­els in com­mu­ni­ties near industrial zones, ports, rail yards, free­ways and other freight cor­ri­dors.

The rules ap­proved Fri­day also ex­tend to busi­nesses seek­ing new per­mits from the South Coast air dis­trict. About 28 of those fa­cil­i­ties each year, most of them metal-cut­ting op­er­a­tions, will have to cut emis­sions, air dis­trict of­fi­cials said.

The rules ex­empt gas sta- tions and spray booths, which are used at auto body shops and other small busi­nesses. For now, the air dis­trict will al­low those fa­cil­i­ties to op­er­ate un­der ex­ist­ing guide­lines, giv­ing them more time to in­stall new pol­lu­tion con­trols.

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