CSMS Magazine Staff WriterThe outcome of inhaling mineral particulate is a vast array of predictable diseases. For example, asthma, blood clot, many types of cancer, erectile dysfunction (impotence), congestive heart failure, and heart attack begin forming when inhaled earthen minerals (dust) enter through the lungs into the patient’s blood and lymph fluids. For decades, federal and state health officials have known that breathing inorganic matter results in these illnesses and many other preventable diseases. Yet, “Who in government is responsible for sounding the alarm and awakening a sleeping public?” At a meeting sponsored by the Indiana Chapter of the American Lung Association (ALA), that question came from the audience. The answer may surprise you. At a time when clean air is in short supply and the number of people seeking medical treatment is rising, “government agencies are purposely mute.” Their silence speaks volumes, for they are staffed with experts who know that morbidity begins with the inhalation of a single mineral fiber. The financial influence corporate contributors exert over our Nation’s political parties has impeded the circulation of scientific studies and thereby resulted in massive numbers of preventable illnesses. Governments and employers place great emphasis on creating a business friendly atmosphere. Often these partnerships terminate when corporations deplete their tax incentives and then abandon their environmental disasters. They leave behind industrial health issues that, for generations, continue to plague local communities. The leadership in Washington has repeatedly asked Congress to confirm, to our Nation’s health care agencies, political appointees who are loyal to the business community. Moreover, Congress has failed to adequately fund many of the Nation’s health enforcement agencies. As a result, federal and state governments are now clamoring to transfer the projected gargantuan Baby Boomer medical treatment outlays from governments to individuals. Washington’s current thought process is to disavow the government-corporate partnership and transfer the cost of these preventable illnesses to the patient and the patient’s family. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with safeguarding our Nation’s “outdoor air”. At an EPA meeting held earlier this year in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan a discussion of air emissions from the adjoining Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario steel mill took place. Industrial activities that convert iron ore, limestone, and coal (coke) into liquid steel, also release toxins into the air. The EPA spokesperson stated, “Emissions from the Canadian steel plant are worrisome health concerns.” Seventy-five thousand Canadians and fourteen thousand Americans live in a ten-mile radius of the plant. Yet, the governments of both countries publicly avoid addressing the tradeoff of economic growth versus a community’s exposure to carcinogens and loss of citizens’ health. The consequence of such blatant inaction leads to expensive life-ending illnesses. At this border location, pollutants drift from the Canadian industrial site into the breathable air of America’s federal workforce. This workforce is comprised of military and civilian employees of Army Corps of Engineers and Home Land Security (Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Customs Service, and Immigration and Naturalization). The EPA’s political appointees are mandated by Congressional Act to safeguard our Nation’s workforce. “Worrisome health concerns” dictate that employers, employees, and their families be informed of the immediate health risks. Wind direction devices that monitor mineral particulates drifting from the steel plant toward unprotected workers could be installed to alert personnel to don employer provided respirators. Interagency sharing of scientific knowledge and long-established safety procedures could warn employees to avoid wearing contaminated work clothing in their vehicles and homes. This would protect workers and their families, and help them avoid the need for expensive medical treatment. Worldwide, the steel industry is a major employer that generates significant tax revenue for governments. Steel production is also a major contributor to rapidly rising international healthcare outlays. Therein lies the foundation for the government-corporate conspiracy. Together they produce tax revenue and employment while blaming “unknown sources” for exploding healthcare cost. In a disturbing and repeating pattern, the Bush administration’s EPA political appointees have consistently extended their failures from Libby, Montana to the Twin Towers of New York City and across our Nation’s heartland. The election process ultimately determines the plight of your family’s health. Voters influence the quality of the air they breathe each time they send corporate friendly representatives to Washington. Financial success is immaterial, for neglecting to protect clean air and clean water leaves a National legacy of failure and nothing but life-robbing illnesses for future generations.Note: To view a report on your State’s air quality visit ALA’s web page: www.lungaction.org ‘State of the Air Report’.Andrew Robbins is the author of It Took My Breath Away: One Man’s Experience May Save Your Life.