“The environmental justice movement is coming together. We have to be vocal and really push forward the true definition of environmental justice, which is the access to clean air, water, and land for all people…but especially that communities of color and low-income communities aren’t disproportionately burdened.”
Residents of ZIP code 48217 are on the frontline of the environmental justice movement. 48217 was found to be the most polluted ZIP code in the state of Michigan by University of Michigan researchers who studied emissions from major industrial facilities, as well as the toxicity of the chemicals that are released. Minority and low-income neighborhoods are paying a price of industrialization, especially with their health. The Marathon Petroleum oil refinery, sewage treatment plants, steel plants, asphalt yards, diesel pollution, and a seemingly endless list of other heavy industry have severely diminished the quality of life. Residents pay with high rates of asthma, disease, polluted residential soil, and high rates of respiratory disease, lead poisoning, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and cancer of the lymphatic system, to name just a few. These diseases can and have been cataloged block by block. The EPA has stated that the area is being made a priority, but it is too late for many residents who have already gotten ill.
There are no minimum requirements for how close industrial facilities in and around Southwest Detroit can be to homes, schools, and churches. Neighborhoods are situated in view of huge industrial plants such as Marathon Petroleum. Diesel pollution is a problem because of the truck traffic that saturates the area. There are often several people within a single household suffering serious illness. One example is a family in which each of the four children has asthma and that their father died of cancer. Despite increasing evidence that environmental pollutants are linked to cancers and other diseases, the City Council of Detroit refuses to respond to requests for a moratorium on industrial development in the area. Due to Detroit’s financial situation, it is unlikely this situation will change in the near future — Detroit is near bankruptcy, and curtailing industry would cost the city much-needed jobs. The proximity to the industrial pollution has made it difficult to move due to the lower values of the houses in this area.
“Neighbors describe dark clouds that drift in, sparkly metallic fallout, foul odors, and constant acrid smells.”
The table below and the list of contaminants following are the top 12 air toxins in metro Detroit. Below the table are most of the chemicals listed, along with toxicological profiles, guides, and fact sheets, medical management guidelines, and the public health statements. Within each of the links are given: the affects the contaminant has on the body; effects on the environment; connections to cancer; and the potential risks of exposure. All documents are from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
The EPA hosts a program called EnviroMapper. This is an interactive map in which you can click on air, water, waste, land, toxins, and radiation. Once you’ve clicked on one, the map will locate the industrial plants that report to the EPA. For each plant it designates whether it is a single facility or if it’s a cluster of facilities, and a report of releases and contaminants are shown. The map also adds on program systems which locate air emissions, superfund sites, toxic releases (TRI), hazardous waste, waste dischargers, and brownfields. The map allows you to individually search for specific industries, pollutants, and addresses. The map also adds on extra information such as school, church, and hospital locations. We advise that you use this map to locate the industries around your area. The map can be used in connection to the demographics of the area in concern with the industrial plant locations.
List of Chemicals and Resources
Manganese- Manganese is a naturally occurring metal. Pure manganese is silver colored but this does not occur naturally. It will combine with other substances such as oxygen, sulfur, or chlorine. For industrial uses, manganese can also be combined with carbon to make organic manganese compounds. Common organic manganese compounds include pesticides, such as maneb, mancozeb and methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT), which is a fuel additive in some gasolines. Manganese affects the cardiovascular system (Heart and Blood Vessels), the liver, the nervous system, and the respiratory system (from the nose to the lungs).
Diisocyanates-It is a pale yellow liquid with a very strong odor that is and industrial chemical. It is also known as HDI, 1,6 – hexamethylene diisocyanate, 1,6-diisocyanatohexane, Mondur HX, and Desmodur H. It is used to make polyurethane foams and coatings. It is also used as a hardener in automobile and airplane paints. It affects the immune system and the respiratory system.
Sulfuric Acid- Is a clear colorless oily liquid that is very corrosive. It is used to produce fertilizers, explosives, other acids, glue, and the purification of petroleum. It affects the skin and the respiratory system.
Nickel- Nickel is used to make stainless steel. Steel can combine with other elements such as chlorine, sulfur, and oxygen to form compounds. It can be used for nickel plating, to color ceramics, and to create batteries. In studies by the ATSDR, nickel is shown to be a human carcinogen. It also affects the cardiovascular system, skin, immune system, and the respiratory system.
Chromium-Chromium is used for making steel. Chromium(VI) and chromium(0) are generally produced by industrial processes. It is used for chrome plating, dyes, pigments, leather tanning, and wood preserving. There is no taste or odor associated with chromium. It is known to be a human carcinogen. It also affects the immune system, kidneys, and respiratory system.
Lead- Industrial uses of lead come from industrial activities such as burning fossil fuel, mining, and manufacturing. It is used in the production of batteries, ammunition, metal products, and devices to shield X-rays. It can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system, developmental stages of organs, the gastrointestinal system, the hematological system, the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system, the kidneys, and the reproductive system.
Chlorine- It is a yellow-green gas that is heavier than air and has a strong irritating odor. It can be converted to a liquid under pressure or cold temperatures. Chlorine is used as bleach in the manufacture of paper and cloth. It affects the eyes and the respiratory system.
Acrolein-It is a colorless or yellow liquid with a strong odor. Small amounts of acrolein can be formed and can enter the air when trees, tobacco, other plants, gasoline, and oil are burned. It is also used as a pesticide to control algae, weeds, bacteria, and mollusks. It affects the cardiovascular system, hematological (blood forming) system, the eyes, and the respiratory system.
Cobalt-Cobalt is used in the production of aircraft engines, magnets, grinding and cutting tools, and artificial hip and knee joints. It is used to color glass, ceramics, paints, as well as to dry porcelain enamel and paints. It is a human carcinogen. It also affects the organ systems, the cardiovascular system, and the development of organs, the hematological system, and the respiratory system.
- The ATSDR 2011 Substance Priority List
- List of Minimal Risk Factors of contaminants
- Interaction Profiles
1. Svoboda, Sandra. “Justice for All: A grassroots movement declares minorities and the poor shouldn’t unfairly bear the brunt of pollution.” Metrotimes , July 14, 2011. http://metrotimes.com/news/justice-for-all-1.1189608 (accessedApril 24, 2012).
2. Lam, Tina. “48217: Life in Michigan’s most polluted ZIP code.” Detroit Free Press, June 20, 2010. http://www.freep.com/article/20100620/NEWS05/6200555 (accessed April 24, 2012).
3. Lam, Tina. Detroit Free Press, “Elevated Air Toxins.” Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.freep.com/assets/freep/graphic/C4159858620.JPG.
4. ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Manganese.” Last Modified March 13, 2011. Accessed April 24, 2012.http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=23.
5. ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Sulfuric Acid.” Lastmodified March 3, 2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=47.
6. ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Nickel.” Last modified March 3, 2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=44.
7. ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Lead.” Last modified March 3 2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=22.
8.ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Chromium.” Last modified March 3 2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=22.
9.ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Chlorine.” Last modified March 3,2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=36.
10. ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Acrolein.” Last modified March 3, 2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=102.
11. ATSDR-Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “Cobalt.” Last modified March 3,2011. Accessed April 24, 2012. http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=64.