The Air We Breathe: Understanding the Implications of Texas’ Proposed Cancer Risk Levels

At OnderLaw, we stand firm in our commitment to advocating for public health and safety. We believe that every individual has the right to clean air, a healthy environment, and protection from potential harm. Today, we shed light on a pressing issue in Texas concerning industrial air pollution and its ramifications on the health of the residents.

Recently, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has moved, without public hearings, to adopt a target cancer risk level that has been used for the past 17 years. This standard, many scientists and public health officials argue, does not consider the cumulative effects of air pollution.

Unveiling the Proposed Standard

The TCEQ’s proposal seeks to solidify its target cancer risk level at 1 in 100,000. In simpler terms, this means that for every 100,000 individuals exposed to a particular pollutant from a permitted site, only one excess case of cancer would emerge.

While the TCEQ spokesperson argues that this standard is “reasonable” and “protective of human health,” looking at each pollutant and site individually may under-represent the real risks faced by communities near industrial hubs, such as those along the Texas coast.

Cumulative Effects and Implications

Imagine living in a community surrounded by various industrial facilities, each emitting different pollutants. While each facility might adhere to the permitted levels, the collective impact of all these pollutants can be much more significant. There’s a synergistic effect when multiple pollutants interact, and the resultant health risk can be much greater than when viewed in isolation.

Such cumulative effects, particularly in areas dense with industrial activities, can pose grave dangers to vulnerable populations. Dr. Bruce Lanphear aptly points out the interplay between smoking tobacco and arsenic exposure, emphasizing how their combined effects dramatically elevate the risk factor.

The Call for Tighter Standards

Several voices, including Houston’s government and various environmental groups, are urging TCEQ to adopt stricter standards. A more protective target risk level of one in 1 million is being recommended, aligning with the thought that in areas of uncertainty, it’s prudent to err on the side of caution.

The cost of tighter standards can be viewed in terms of economic implications for industries. However, one must question the trade-off: Should profit margins take precedence over human lives and health? With major operators like ExxonMobil posting record profits, the argument for industries bearing the cost of better pollution control mechanisms becomes even stronger.

Addressing Public Distrust

The recent move by TCEQ only reinforces the findings of the Texas Sunset Commission from last year – a general public distrust in TCEQ’s ability to regulate in public interest effectively. This distrust is rooted in a perceived lack of transparency and opportunities for public participation.

A community advocate living close to Houston’s industrial area, only learned of the proposed risk level when environmental groups highlighted it. Such gaps in communication underscore the need for agencies like TCEQ to engage better with the communities they serve.

Moving Forward

At OnderLaw, we believe in a proactive approach to public health and safety. It’s essential to recognize that while industries play a pivotal role in economic growth, this shouldn’t come at the expense of people’s health. The standards we set today will shape the environment of tomorrow. Let’s ensure it’s one that protects and nurtures its residents.

If you or a loved one have been affected by corporate pollution, our team of expert attorneys are here to help. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation.