"Within days, state officials are slated to release the alarming results of a monitoring program of airborne heavy metals, including arsenic, conducted this past October in inner Southeast Portland, the Mercury has learned. The state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Health Authority plan to announce that DEQ data indicate a monthly average of 49 times the state air-safety benchmark level for the neurotoxin and carcinogen cadmium, and 159 times DEQ's air-safety goal for the carcinogen arsenic...most immediately at risk are two Portland schools — Cleveland High School and Winterhaven K-8 — and a 100-child, private day care facility on the nearby Fred Meyer corporate campus that serves children as young as six weeks old."Unsurprisingly, this young woman was horrified; "Yowza. This should NOT be a loophole!" she observed.
Oregon DEQ's rules are contained in the Oregon Adminstrative Rules, or OARs, and the regulation involved here is OAR 340 and its various divisions. If you go read the rules defining regulated pollutants it's pretty chastening how much airborne contaminants are permissible.
And that's critical. The term used in the regs is "PSEL": Permissible Site Emission Limit". Note that the linked Merc article says this:
"...DEQ data indicate a monthly average of 49 times the state air-safety BENCHMARK LEVEL for the neurotoxin and carcinogen cadmium, and 159 times DEQ's AIR-SAFETY GOAL for the carcinogen arsenic..." (emphasis mine).Notice what's NOT there?
There's no indication that the glass plant has exceeded its PSEL. Meaning that if it hasn't, there's no grounds for enforcement. DEQ can't bust 'em if their emissions are high...but within their PSEL. The PSELs aren't written to account for the surrounding of the emitter, in most cases, so here the proximity of schools and day-care centers doesn't factor in, either.
Just to give an example, the federal EPA sets what are known as "PEL" - permissible exposure limits" for hazardous materials. The Nation Institute of Occupational Safety and Health - NIOSH - sets something call a "Recommended Exposure Limit", or REL. Typically RELs are lower - sometimes MUCH lower - than PELs. Why?
Here's a great explanation from the blog Chemdaq:
"NIOSH RELs are supposed to be based on the best available science (using human or animal health effects data). "OSHA PELs, on the other hand, are subject to the rulemaking and political process, meaning that the interests of all parties involved are taken into consideration. Thus, OSHA does not have the luxury of relying strictly on science. Establishing PELs sometimes even come down to court rulings.So we're happily poisoning ourselves - just a little, just a bit, just a smidgen at a time, perhaps...oer perhaps not - because to reduce those poisons to a level where "serious harm should not happen to ALL people" would cause other people not to make money or to lose their jobs.
To be frank, the OSHA PEL is not the safe limit below which harm cannot occur. Rather it is the legal limit (i.e. what is “permissible”), below which serious harm should not occur to most people. Thus, while the OSHA PEL represents the legal exposure limit, it does not necessarily represent the desired exposure level. To that extent, the NIOSH REL is the more appropriate number."
Is there an easy answer here?
But I can tell you what's the wrong goddamn answer. And that's the one that you hear all the time from "conservatives" and "job creators" and which I put into the Libidinous Visitor's big, fat, mouth.