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Monday, June 17, 2024

Implosions and a Community’s Health

By Andrew RobbinsCSMS Magazine Staff WriterAlgoma Steel Incorporated at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, imploded two ancient blast furnaces this spring. Later this year a third, World War II era, furnace will be leveled. The concern with these implosions is that asbestos was used extensively in steel refining. Asbestos insulated pipes, boilers, furnace linings, and ladles.   The corporation claimed airborne particulates released by the implosions were contained on plant property and the carcinogens never left the demolition site. A spokesperson stated, “The furnaces, used in producing steel, were deteriorating and becoming a liability with safety concerns.” To justify and vindicate their actions, corporations often cite “safety concerns” while razing colossal structures and strewing airborne contaminates.    Regarding air quality, the implosions are only part of the problem—the steel manufacturing process and its proximity to residential areas is the remainder. For years plant neighbors endeavored to awaken community leaders. Foul airborne contaminates polluted their properties and much of the Algoma District (county). Breathing Easy, a troubling December 2005 report commissioned by Member of Parliament Tony Martin, raised “RED FLAG” health threats. Homeowners’ complaints of coughing; burning sensations in the mouth, throat, lungs and eyes; spitting up black soot; and asthma attacks are finally being heard. In addition to the realities of their lives, open windows resulting in floors and kitchen counters covered with coal particulate, ‘black stuff’ clinging to windows, mineral particulate layered on outdoor and indoor furniture, pets’ water bowls filmed with coal soot, and corrosive substances eating through plastic lawn furniture—are being acknowledged.    In 2003, the Algoma Health Unit released a cancer study of the Algoma District for the years 1984-1998. That report cited increased rates of three types of cancers: genital/urinary tract cancers; digestive tract and peritoneal (stomach and mesothelioma) cancers; and respiratory and intrathoracic (chest) cancers. The Algoma District lung cancer rate is 24% higher for men and 16% higher for women than the provincial rate for both men and women.   The industrial process of creating liquid iron requires three ingredients: taconite pellets (iron ore), limestone, and coke. Each ingredient is fraught with its own health issues. Steel production continuously releases mineral fibers into a community’s breathable air. Higher incidences of mesothelioma illnesses are detected in iron ore miners, shipworkers, and steelworkers. Mesothelioma is associated with exposure to asbestos. Limestone employers encounter increased litigation as their employees develop illnesses similar to steel industry workers. The process of converting coal to coke releases particulate matter into breathable air.   Coal workers develop black lung disease like anthracosis. Anthracosis is a chronic lung disease characterized by deposits of “coal particulate” in the lungs and by formation of black nodules on bronchioles (the windpipe’s pathway to the lungs) resulting in focal emphysema caused by mineral inhalation.   The carcinogens described in this article move with the wind, across an invisible border, and are the source of illness for 75,000 Canadians and 14,000 Americans in the immediate area. Airborne particulates create illness in a twenty-mile radius from the source, the killing-zone. These pollutants create trans-boundary health concerns. Resolution requires Federal acknowledgement and action.   The steel industry is a compulsory component of a nation’s lifeline. Illness associate with steel manufacturing is preventable. The solution is to isolate industrial sites far from residential and commercial neighborhoods.Note: Andrew Robbins is the author of It Took My Breath Away: One Man’s Experience May Save Your Life.Also see Illusion of Health and Safety : https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060822I231

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