with polluters, maintaining that its federal counterpart is unreasonably restrictive. At the heart of the disagreement is a profound difference over just how clean Texas air should be. EPA’s standards have been stricter than TACB thinks is practical. TACB contends that EPA goals are unrealistic and that attainment of them would spell economic and social disaster for the state. The national Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 empowered EPA to set federal standards for six pollutants. Under Congress’ plan, the states were to set the actual emission limits needed to meet the national standards, and then enforce their own. The hooker was that if the states did not live up to their obligations, the feds could step in. In 1971, EPA made a stab at defining clean air by setting two levels of “national ambient air quality standards.” Primary standards were established for the minimum level of air quality required to prevent human death or illness. The primary standards specified the permissible volumes of six pollutants sulfur oxides, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, photochemical oxidants, and nitrogen oxide. Secondary standards designed to protect the public set more stringent limits on the identified pollutants. Hydrocarbon controls EPA recognizes other pollutants hazardous to health and is empowered to issue standards on them for new industries. To date, EPA has issued regulations on asbestos, mercury, beryllium and vinyl chloride. A standard for lead is in the works. With an estimated 10,000 new chemical compounds developed each year, the list of hazardous substances is certain to grow. TACB has questioned the technical validity of one of the EPA standards and has balked at writing an emission regulation to achieve it. In 1973, at the TACB’s request, Atty. Gen. Hill joined several Texas companies in a suit against EPA over proposed hydrocarbon emission controls for automobiles. EPA has subsequently backed off its demands for a reduction in vehicular traffic and has opted for a plan much more palatable to well-wheeled Texans. The latest disagreement with EPA centers around TACB’s policy of issuing permits for new industrial construction in “non-attainment areas” places where the air is already badly polluted. For the young, the elderly, and those with respiratory illnesses and chronic heart and lung disease, the stakes may be life itself. TACB requires that new plant facilities comply with present emission regulations and employ the best available lem, EPA says, is that even with BACT new industries will be contributing additional pollutants to areas where the composition of the ambient air already violates pollution standards. In answer to a recent Business Week article, “The Texas Rebellion Over EPA’s Air Rules,” Charles Barden, TACB executive director, said the board’s disagreements with EPA stem from “technical, not philosophical, differences.” In other statements however, Barden has made the differences sound basic and philosophical. In The Clear Blue, an official TACB publication, Barden has said, “Although we acknowledge that adverse health effects exist for some segments of the population at the standards now set, we have serious problems accepting the no-effects threshold philosophy of standard setting employed by EPA.” Translated, that means TACB is not aiming for air free of adverse health effects. The TACB thinking is that “ac ceptance of some risk from air pollution, while not desirable, is no less desirable than the multitude of risks a person accepts in other areas daily in exchange for security, convenience, and a very high degree of personal freedom.” The stakes in the control of air pollution are high. For the very young, the elderly, and those with respiratory illnesses and chronic heart and lung disease, the stakes may be life itself. For those who are healthy now and less vulnerable, the adverse effects of long-term exposure to low-level pollution may not be noticed for ten or twenty years. For industry and business, of course, money is at stake, and often a great deal of it. Although the installation of pollution control equipment has had financial benefits for many companies carbon black and cement plants have, for example, been able to recapture appreciable quantities of their products which had formerly passed out of their stacks, and other industries now use and sell byproducts captured in the pollution control process most Texas firms have not been enthusiastic about making the necessary capital investment. In addition, industry must confront the difficulty that technology in air pollution abatement equipment is new. Better hardware comes along every year, making existing equipment obsolete. Industry chiefs worry that new and more stringent air quality standards may render their investments useless. 0 Sitting in the middle as referee between the breathing public and industry is the TACB. It decides how clean Texas air should be and who has to give up what in the tradeoff between public health and economic well-being. *4if4 4 May 6, 1977 5 “It is interesting that in one high incidence station [neighborhood], in one intermediate, and one low incidence station, white and nonwhite [malignancy] rates were nearly identical, which suggests that similar exposures tended to produce similar rates, regardless of ethnicity. . . . “The diagrammatic map of the city shows that the high rates for white males are in stations contiguous to one another, that follow the southeastnorthwest wind gradient. . . . “The stations with low rates are generally out of the path of the usual prevailing winds carrying pollution and have little or no industry within their borders. Cancer deaths and air pollution Presence or absence of atmospheric pollution seems to be the major difference between stations of high and stations of low respiratory cancer mortality “The mortality rates for white males and females for influenza, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, allergies and cancer of the respiratory tract for the last thirty years follow the same general trend for stations where the cancer mortality is high. . . . “The mortality rates from 1980 to 2000 will reflect the results of exposures being recorded today. How much of the mortality from respiratory diseases other than cancer is because of the reduction of the ability of the lungs to fight off respiratory infections after repeated longterm exposure to ozone and other pollutants, even though the direct effects are not known to be dramatic, is problematical.” Excerpted from “Air Pollution, Demography, Cancer: Houston, Texas” by Eleanor J. Macdonald, professor of epidemiology at The University of Texas System Cancer Center, M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute, Houston. Dr. Macdonald’s monograph appeared in the October, 1976,edition of The Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association.
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