Protecting Pascagoula from PFCs
Once a day, on average, a tanker truck loaded with a PFC (perfluorocarbon) called fluorotelomer alcohol leaves DuPont's Chamber Works plant in New Jersey, headed for the company's First Chemical Plant near Pascagoula, Mississippi. There, a contaminant linked to cancer, PFOA, is removed before the purified product is hauled back to New Jersey. Chemical properties that make PFCs so useful to industry make them near-indestructible in nature, and PFOA is among the most resistent of all. One study found that workers involved in manufacturing PFOA were three times as likely to die of prostate cancer as those who weren't, and EPA studies show that rats fed PFOA were more likely to develop tumors in the pancreas, liver, testicles, and mammary glands; rates of miscarriage, weight loss, and thyroid problems also increased significantly.
It is expected that two pounds per year of PFOA will escape into the Pascagoula area's sewer system, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. But because the contaminent is unregulated, these emissions require no EPA or state permits. Sierra Club Gulf Coast Group Chair Brenda Songy, pictured speaking above, has been trying to stop the importation of PFOA from New Jersey; she was part of a group that attended the Pascagoula City Council's October meeting to urge a ban on emissions. They were rebuffed. In January, Songy told AlterNet that Pascagoula won't turn away the tanker trucks because the city and region are "too entrenched in industrialization," despite a legacy of environmental toxins and high cancer rates. "At the meeting, our arguments were considered a 'girly-wussy' thing, as opposed to the 'manly-market' view that we should welcome DuPont's investment," Songy says.
DuPont's Pascagoula plant manager says that since they already have the equipment needed to remove PFOA, it would be "impractical and too expensive" to haul the necessary equipment to New Jersey. But a pollution lawsuit currently pending against DuPont's New Jersey plant seems a more plausible reason the company is hauling its contaminated product to Mississippi. To learn more about what the Sierra Club is doing to combat toxic pollution, see our Toxics and Safe & Healthy Communities Web pages.