Air toxics are largely not subject to the kind of strict regulation that “traditional” air pollution like NOX, SOX and particulates are, and yet just the other day we begged off a longer discussion of the topic, opining that air toxics were a subject for another day.
Well, aren’t we the lucky ones? Our friends at the Society of Environmental Journalists have just helpfully provided a guide to what’s happening with the National Airborne Toxics Assessment. It’s an eye-opener.
For example, it turns out there are something like 180 kinds of toxic gunk in the air that are killing us. Bear in mind that there are no ambient air standards for most of these. No lie.
NATA estimates risks for only about two-thirds of the air toxics. Even considering that limited picture, they do plenty of harm. SEJ’s staff has compiled a piercing summary of what NATA shows, including:
The results indicate that almost every person in the US lives in an area where the cancer risk exceeds 10 in 1 million after a lifetime of exposure to selected air toxics, well in excess of EPA’s general target of 1 in 1 million. For 2 million people, the risk is far worse, exceeding 100 in 1 million. The average risk is 36 in 1 million.
For noncancer respiratory risks, nearly everyone in the country lives in an area where the hazard index was higher than EPA’s target of 1.0, and the index was 10 or higher for more than 22 million people.
Now, technically, SEJ’s “tipsheets” are targeted at and indispensable for professional environmental reporters on the beat. But, hey, this is a great example of why individual independent citizens who are concerned about what’s happening around them might want to access these well-researched tips for reporters. (Full disclosure: I serve on the SEJ board of directors, my way of giving back for all SEJ has done for me.)
And, while we’re at it, why can’t these citizens help reporters do their jobs? Please let me know if you have ideas along these lines.