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Cartoon in a Judrez newspaper from the 1970s Courtesy Phillip Landrigan tk F.1N’t rt.V4tVC, NT100:ritE ixtakt TtAkTAi. Ctdbp ,itAcz TA:Rk 0 0 LADD , This medical group advocated an end to blood lead sampling outside Smeltertown. The last order of business at the meeting was to reject a $50,000 grant from the CDC for Landrigan to do more studies. Upon arriving in El Paso, Landrigan received a letter from Rosenblum, canceling any continued investigation. It said the El Paso Board of Health had instead decided to accept McNeil’s study, funded by an industry front group called the International Lead Zinc Research Organization. “First, there was disagreement as to the validity of the studies,” Rosenblum wrote, explaining their rationale. “Secondly, Dr. McNeil’s studies are being [privately] funded where your studies would be done at taxpayers’ expense.” Landrigan protested to the Office of the Texas Attorney General. “I don’t know who spoke to whom, but within a day or two the invitation was reinstated and we got to work,” he says. Their work, published in the medical journal Lancet, showed evidence of neurological problems in children who lived near ASARCO, even in some with no obvious symptoms of lead poisoning. Still, McNeil continued to be a contrary force. He did his own study of IQ, funded by ASARCO, that found no evidence of a negative effect, according to Landrigan. “He dogged our heels for the next couple of years until he finally faded from the scene,” says Landrigan. “We would go to meetings and present our paper, and he would jump up from the audience and claim that we had done our study wrong, and a scientific debate would ensue. That sort of unpleasantness lasted for a couple of years, but ultimately, his paper was never published anywhere except some local journal. Ours was published in a journal of international repute. So I think it’s fair to say that at the end of the day, we won the scientific battle.” The attention from Landrigan’s team helped force ASARCO to install more pollution controls on its smelters. The scientists returned to El Paso about five years later and found that the lead levels had gone down. “They weren’t what you would call normal,” he says, “but they were certainly lower than they had been.” Landrigan then turned his attention to studying lead poisoning in other communities in the United States and abroad. For the next 20 years, El Paso slid back into business as usual. The controversy over ASARCO appeared to have died along with Smeltertown. he combination of a craggy face, long wiry white hair, and an unwavering intensity sometimes gives Taylor Moore the aspect of a hermit-turned-street preacher. But since returning to El Paso in 1999, after a 50-year absence, the retired trial lawyer has become one of the consciences of the city, a muckraker who has amassed an impressive library of documents relating to ASARCO. The 72-year-old Moore’s investigations into the company and its corrupting influence on local authorities have transformed the debate on the smelter forever. Looking for something to do after his return to town, Moore took a Texas Master Naturalist class with a focus on geology. He didn’t know much about ASARCO other than the bad reputation it had contributed to El Paso. Wherever Moore traveled, he says, people identified El Paso as that smelly, polluted place. He didn’t know at the time that only a few years before his return, the Texas Department of Health had investigated an apparent cluster of multiple sclerosis cases around the smelter. Their report concluded: “We found a statistically significant two-fold excess of MS based on 14 cases of definite and probable MS.” Nothing happened beyond a confirmation of an excess of the disease. There appears to have been little public disclosure of the study. As part of his schoolwork, Moore offered to help a UTEP professor on an environmental task force formed by then-mayor Ray Caballero. The professor had a stack of historical documents relating to ASARCO that needed to be read and organized. Moore sat down with the pile and came across the letter in which the city’s leading pediatricians had tried to run Landrigan out of town. These days, he calls it “the wiggle letter;’ because when Moore shows it to people in authority they start to wiggle nervously. “It’s damning and so I started to look at what other critics were doing about ASARCO,” he remembers. It seemed to Moore that everywhere it had operated, ASARCO had problems. The list of cleanups exceeded 40 sites, spread out over the nation: Montana, Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington, and Colorado. In many of the communities ASARCO had operated for more than a 100 yearsthe first 70 without any regulation to speak ofand residents had 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/8/04