The California State Legislature recently finalized legislation dealing with air pollution and climate change in a way that recognizes the cost of doing business for manufacturing and oil companies. This has been heralded as a grand compromise that balances business, jobs and the environment.
Meanwhile, regional and state agencies have a new target in the Los Angeles region as they seek to regulate another industry, this one right here in our own community—the metal finishing industry.
From airplane bodies and wings, medical devices, musical instruments, jewelry and guitars, metal finishers create some of the California’s most familiar, important and artistic products in the world.
These companies are located throughout our region, including in Compton, Paramount, Bell Gardens, City of Industry and Los Angeles. Using sophisticated and state of the art technology, they employ and support thousands of inner-city families at a time when such jobs are vanishing within our fading manufacturing industry.
Of particular concern, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) is currently monitoring metal finishing companies in Compton to determine the levels of a chemical known as Hexavalent Chromium in our community. Like hundreds of chemicals—including those found in alcoholic beverages, aspirin and gasoline—there is the potential for long-term risk of cancer, but only at prolonged high levels of exposure over decades.
Using data from 1975, AQMD wants to set a level of 1.0 nano-gram per cubic meter for the community near the plants.
This doesn’t add up.
• After all, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a level of 5,000 nano-grams (one-billionth of a gram) per cubic meter for workers in metal finishing companies.
• The National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health has set a recommended exposure limit of 200 nano-grams per cubic meter as a guideline specifically for health protection.
• The current European guideline set by the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) is 1,000 nano-grams per cubic meter.
Despite this huge disconnect, AQMD has set up monitoring programs throughout Compton, trying to find actual Hexavalent Chromium levels and reporting the results on almost a daily basis on its website: www.aqmd.gov.
While the Hexavalent Chromium levels are nearly non-existent, some of the highest readings they have been able to detect have occurred on Sundays when the metal finishing companies are closed. This suggests other sources might be producing Hexavalent.
Their proposed regulations and why they would like to cap exposure for levels for local residents living near metal finishing at less than 1.0 nano-grams raises several questions:
• Why does AQMD believe it should set a level of 1.0 nano-gram for residents living around metal finishing businesses when it is so far from all other standards? [For example, OSHA has a standard level of 5,000 nano-grams for workers coming in direct contact with the chemical; other agencies have set 200 to 1,000 nano-grams as safe levels]
• Why is AQMD relying on 1975 data and not more current science?
• Why are some of AQMD’s readings higher on Sundays, when the companies are closed?
• Why is AQMD not monitoring or concerned with other sources in Compton, including forging companies, painters, auto shops, recyclers, concrete mixing and transfer stations and heat treating facilities?
• Why is AQMD singling out metal finishers and using old, inaccurate data to go after these companies, which is say they are being harassed by the district.
On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, the AQMD will host a town hall meeting at the Dollarhide Community Center to provide an update on special air monitoring efforts in Compton and additional information will be provided on this important local community issue. The town hall starts at 6:00p.m., located at: 301 N. Tamarind Avenue, Compton, CA 90222.