Friday, October 19, 2007

Poor Environments Are What You Get For Not Being Rich

Living on the wrong side of the tracks has always been the euphemistic way of talking about poor people's propensity to live in areas not nearly so nice as you would choose. In GoPerv view, it's a choice made by those good-fer-nothin's who don't didn't get born into wealth so they just don't care about what their homes look like. Of course, some of those who can't choose to live in the upper income part of town are beginning to be uppity. They think they should have clean air to breathe like the folks in, say, north Dallas or northeast D.C., and suburbs.

Conditions in the 'wrong side of town' you see are usually caused by the kind of industries that tend to locate where costs aren't so great. In Houston, living in the cheap areas has proven to be downright deadly.

Six-year-old Valentin Marroquin went from being apparently healthy one moment to battling leukemia the next. As his mother Rosario Marroquin started searching for answers, she kept coming back to their Houston, Texas, neighborhood, and the stench that often envelopes it.

"We're the stinky neighborhood," she said. "But we've gotten so used to it that we don't know that's just how we smell."

The Marroquin family lives in the Manchester area of Houston, next to the Houston ship channel, the largest petrochemical complex in the United States. Day after day, oil refineries and petrochemical companies pump hazardous pollutants, including known cancer-causing chemicals like benzene and 1-3 butadiene, into the air.
Michael Honeycut, chief toxicologist for the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, disputes the notion that race and class play into the regulation of air toxins.

"Our job is to protect human health and the environment," he said. "What's happened is it's issues of timing -- what's a safe level, what's not a safe level." Honeycut said scientists are generating new data all the time and that certain emissions or areas formerly thought to be safe may no longer appear to be.

Houston Mayor Bill White has pledged to reduce the level of air toxins for communities along the ship channel.

The lowcost areas where people can afford to live when they work three jobs and still can barely keep their kids fed and clothed can be pretty ugly. It's the kind of role that government is supposed to play, that it protect all of us, equally. The voices of all parents should be just as loud when the air threatens the less fortunate as when it harms those who were born a little luckier.

It's irresponsible and it's uncaring to put people in office who think they only serve the rich. If we can't vote with more care for our own safety, we should think about the ones who can't speak up, and whose voices aren't heard. It's up to us to take care of them by electing better people.

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Blogger shrimplate said...

Something interesting happens when regulatory authorities establish a safe "maximum level" allowable for a discarded toxin: that becomes the minimal level that companies actually concern themselves with.

6:55 PM  

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