Archived Story

‘Toxic’ region must become primary focus

Published 9:11am Tuesday, August 21, 2012

For years many people believed air pollution was a problem that only plagued the most urban parts of our nation. We must think differently — our health depends on it.

A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council paints a scary picture when it comes to air quality and toxic emissions from electric-generating plants.

The agency identified its Toxic Twenty, a list of states who were the worst offenders. This is concerning for all who live in the Tri-State.

Kentucky ranked at the top of the list. Ohio was No. 2 and West Virginia was No. 5.

Emissions include mercury, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonia and others. The 20 states accounted for approximately 92 percent of toxic air pollution from these plants.

Health experts and citizens alike have often questioned whether or not the high rate of cancer and other diseases in our area are inflated because the environment. This data certainly shows that could be the case.

This won’t change until citizens, lawmakers and industry leaders sit down at the table together to first acknowledge that there is a problem and then draft achievable steps to address this health hazard.

Simply ignoring the problem decade after decade does nothing and the residents of the Tri-State have, and will continue to, pay the price.

Insisting that we have clean air to breath, clean water to drink and that business and industry are good corporate citizens are not unreasonable requests.

These are not concepts that make someone a radical environmentalist.

Living in a clean and healthy environment should be considered as alienable a right as those protected by the U.S. Constitution.


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  • mickakers

    runner4life; A thought provoking post. Your comment “It is all a matter of choices and even with the threat of a 30% increase in my electric bill, I will choose health every time because without it, I have nothing.” My compliments.

    (Report comment)

  • mikehaney

    Noesis–thanks for the chemistry lesson.
    BILLCO–50′s and 60′s, south end of Ironton cement dust on cars was washed off with adding vinegar in wash water to get it off. Forget what acid vinegar is but it worked.
    We’ve come a long way from those years and I’m sure there is room for improvement but not Obama’s way, next week!!
    Remembering EPA lately wanting to increase ethanol in fuel but thinking of drought out west and fuel additive competing with the price of corn as a food/feed source.
    Science doesn’t give immediate solutions to problems, but eventually it will, one item at a time.
    What EPA is doing to us thru such biased studies(probably) such as this article just wrecks the economy and is teetering as it is.
    My thoughts are;do we keep electricity affordable or do we revert back to coal/wood burners belching from every household?

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    • Noesis

      Vinegar = acetic acid.

      Don’t worry Mike I’m sure the Obama people if re-elected would get around to outlawing coal and wood stoves or even the large burners.

      Oh and one other thing runner4life if you are reading… we grew up on a farm in upper Michigan… no industrial pollution nearby, my mom didn’t use chemicals on the farm – was a “greenie” before her time. She also didn’t smoke or drink, and yet… my youngest brother was born with throat cancer…

      Cancer isn’t always due to chemicals…

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  • runner4life

    @Noesis – As a newly single mom and cancer survivor I am often left weighing choices of money vs. health. The health threats caused by mercury, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonia and others are real. Many of the chemicals that come from burning coal build up in our environment over time and all you need to do is go to Google images and type in “mercury” and “birth defects” to see why this issue truly needs to become a primary focus.

    It is all a matter of choices and even with the threat of a 30% increase in my electric bill, I will choose health every time because without it, I have nothing.

    Kudos to the Ironton Tribune for having the courage to run an article like this.

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    • Noesis

      Actually Runner, I’m a nuclear chemist and I work with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, ammonia and many other chemicals. Those three listed are NOT hazardous at the levels that you are exposed to in the environment.

      And just because you read something in the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. If that’s the case, than that’s all the proof you need that 911 was an inside job done by Bush.

      Mercury is a naturally occurring element. You could shut down every coal plant and you would still have mercury in the environment. Heck, if all coal plants had never existed, if mercury bulbs weren’t used, you would still have mercury in the environment. Same goes for arsenic in apple juice… where did the arsenic come from? It’s in the soil, has always been in the soil.

      I have never really been real fond of “studies” that determine “safe levels” of a product or compound. Not since I heard that one test involved force feeding rats shampoo to the point that they developed cancer and then applied that to humans… Yes, I understand, I won’t develop cancer if I drink less than 5 gallons of this type of shampoo a day.

      Another study… the affects of radiation and cancer deaths from exposure.

      They did a pretty good study on the affects of radiation from people exposed during Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They determined what doses people received and then tracked them later in life to see if they died from cancer. Then they graphed the results.

      Say for instance (warning: made up numbers) that exposure to 100 rem, they saw 7,000 deaths per 100,000 population. 300 rem 21,000 deaths per 100,000 population.

      Well, you can draw a straight line all the way to zero and predict how many cancer cases you should see for a given area… say you live near sea level and you get a natural occurring radiation dose of around 200 mrem per year… now, you can compare that to Denver that gets a lot more cosmic radiation (less atmospheric shielding) and they may get 6 or 7 times the amount of radiation… you would expect cancer rates to be 6-7 times higher… but they aren’t. They are the same.

      In other words, they have no idea what is bad. The numbers you see is mostly guesswork.

      The same goes for mercury and other chemicals.

      And you may be able to afford a 30% increase but what about the truly poor. You know, the ones that end up dying because of carbon monoxide “pollution” because a propane heater or a charcoal grill was all they could afford?

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    • Noesis


      Just a quick chemistry lesson:

      pH tells you if water is acidic or basic

      even demineralized water at a pH of 7 has Hydronium (H+) ions and Hydroxide (OH-) ions.

      Salt is Na + and Cl-

      Now your drinking water contains Na, Cl, SO4, CO2 NH3… all naturally occurring… all ions floating and recombining with everything else.

      So in your drinking water (even spring water)… you have hydrochloric acid, hypochlorous acid, Sulfuric acid, carbonic acid (what gives pop it’s fizz), phosphoric acid, chloramines, Fluorosilicic acid (for tooth decay)… heck, I could go on all day…

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      • eosullivan

        Few things are deadly in safe doses. There is arsenic in apples for example, and apples are a healthy, non-lethal snack; however that doesn’t mean I would toss back a glass of rat poison because arsenic is safe in very small doses. Thoughtful moderation is the key to a healthy life and a safe environment.

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  • Shooter1

    You know I’m right.

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  • Shooter1

    When it cheaper to pay EPA fines than to refit and comply to Federal Emission Laws we’ll have this problem.

    (Report comment)

    • Noesis

      Only one problem with your line of reasoning… upgrades that are required by federal law… those costs can be passed on to the consumer.

      So the question is, can the poor people afford to see their electricity bill increase by 30% or so to decrease pollutants by a tiny amount?

      (Report comment)


    I can remember back in the late 50s-60s going up third st and could hardly see for the black dust from solvey, mallable and baretts not too mention the cement plant. I always thought that contributed too the cancer and heart attack rate around here. It just seems to be high in people that lived here back then. jmo.

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  • mikehaney

    I see big problem with an article like the above, since I have no idea who Natural Resources Defense Council is. Who is their contributors, who are their experts, what kind of research are they involved in and the biggey; what kind and how much influence do they have on our elected officials in Washington and the EPA.
    One good thing is I am aware of this organization now, and I will need to educate myself on their influence, good or bad.

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  • Noesis

    I’m sorry but I have a hard time getting upset about emessions of HCl (hydrochloric acid), NH3OH (Ammonia), H2SO4 (sulfuric acid) when we ad NaCl (salt) and CH3COOH (vinegar/acetic acid) to our fries…

    Just saying…

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  • mikehaney

    The NRDC was co-founded in 1970 by John Adams, Richard Ayres, John Bryson, Edward Strohbehn, and Gus Speth, together with a board of scientists and attorneys at the forefront of the environmental movement.[5] The organization has a broad agenda of activities aimed at seeks sustainable policies from federal, state and local government and industrial corporations. It works with federal and state environmental and other agencies, the Congress and state legislatures, and the courts to reduce global warming, limit pollution, protect the stratosphere, promote energy efficiency, conserve natural resources and the natural and built environment, and increase the sustainability of the manufacture of consumer goods. NRDC participates in litigation in federal and state courts to assure the faithful implementation and enforcement of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and many other federal and state laws protecting the environment. The Council also supports an environmental science program that involves dozens of staff and associated scientists; this includes a major program which seeks transformation of manufacturing industries to more sustainable production. In addition, the organization devotes substantial resources to public education .

    In 2001, NRDC launched the BioGems Initiative to mobilize concerned individuals in defense of exceptional and imperiled ecosystems. The initiative matches NRDC’s legal and institutional expertise with the work of citizen activists.

    It has issued a report on the health effects arising from the September 11, 2001 attacks.[6]

    NRDC was also one of the only major national environmental organisations to become and stay involved with community activists on the ground in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.[7]

    NRDC has also published a number of studies on nuclear weapon stockpiles around the world, both as monographs and as individual studies in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

    In December 2006, Green Day and NRDC jointly launched a website to raise awareness on the U.S.’s petroleum dependence.[8][9] The NRDC takes the position that new nuclear power plants are not a solution for America’s energy needs, or for addressing global warming.[10]

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