Pollution From Air Force Keeps Causing Cancer in Tucson, Residents Say
Twenty-seven years ago, 1,600 residents of Tucson, Arizona's south side settled an $84.5 million dollar lawsuit with Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon Missile Systems Co.), claiming the Air Force contractor had been dumping the industrial solvent trichloroethylene (TCE) into the water table for 29 years since 1952, causing cancers and other ailments.
Now, more South Tucson residents are coming forward to claim that justice still hasn't been served.
Within the last year, more than 1,350 South Tucsonans have filed claims with the Air Force saying they continue to suffer from illnesses caused by the drinking-water pollution its contractors used to dump into the ground surrounding the Tucson International Airport, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
The Arizona Daily Star, which reported on the story last week, did not yet know the details of the majority of cases, but spoke to residents who blame the pollution for cancers, heart disease and autoimmune disorders such as lupus, which has been linked to TCE.
Air Force spokesperson Mark Kinkade told the Star that the Air Force had not yet made a decision about any of the claims and had not yet set a timeline for doing so.
South Tucson resident and activist Linda Robles, who is organizing the filing of the claims, said that the current claims were from people who either hadn't known about the first round of lawsuits or hadn't been sick at the time, the Star reported.
Robles has personally experienced the devastation wrought by contaminated drinking water. She lost one daughter to lupus, and two of her other children also have the disease. Her ex-husband had a kidney tumor removed in 2016, and her granddaughter was diagnosed with kidney nephritis in 2013. The illness of her year-old granddaughter was what motivated her to say "no more" and start researching water pollution issues, she told the Star in an April 2017 article about the new round of claims.
Another claimant profiled in the most recent Star article, Carmen "Roxie" Castillo, was also motivated by the death of a friend. While she has suffered from lupus, kidney disease, migraines, chronic pain and other conditions since 1992, she finally decided to take action when her 48-year-old friend Michelle Gutierrez died of brain cancer in 2016, she told the Star.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed unsafe levels of TCE in South Tucson wells in 1981. The contaminated wells were closed in the 1980s, and the city began treating the affected water in 1994. In addition to TCE, the current round of claims also focuses on 1,4-dioxane, another solvent which was discovered in Tucson's water in 2002, the Star reported.
However, Tony Roisman, a lawyer who represented Tucson residents in the earlier round of suits, said that if the current claims develop into a lawsuit, the residents might have a harder time proving their illnesses are a result of the pollution. Since more time has passed, illness could be attributed to age, he told the Star.
While the dioxane was found in the water much more recently, Roisman said in the April 2017 Star article that it is harder to link to cancers than TCE, since the former has only been found to cause cancer in animals and is listed by the federal government as a "probable carcinogen." TCE is listed as a known carcinogen and has been linked to cancer in human studies as well.
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By Brett Wilkins
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the meatpacking industry worked together to downplay and disregard risks to worker health during the Covid-19 pandemic, as shown in documents published Monday by Public Citizen and American Oversight.
<div id="13077" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="11b9fe5ff48ebc437353df6df9c2c892"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1305915938148147205" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Just a week before the Trump administration issued an executive order aimed at keeping meat packing plants open, th… https://t.co/DkbXgPm4YR</div> — ProPublica (@ProPublica)<a href="https://twitter.com/propublica/statuses/1305915938148147205">1600189597.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="36e4c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e7c8048c2755109629a3b3072fcb3261"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1304424041814593539" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Meatpacking union @UFCW, which reps workers at this plant (four of whom died), slams OSHA for the small $13k fine a… https://t.co/tnhfKd89ab</div> — Dave Jamieson (@Dave Jamieson)<a href="https://twitter.com/jamieson/statuses/1304424041814593539">1599833901.0</a></blockquote></div><p>The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents Smithfield Foods workers, <a href="https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/crime/2020/09/10/osha-fines-smithfield-foods-sioux-falls-south-dakota/5768786002/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=f7bf3f03-ce98-4df4-9c45-f44d9a6a5890" target="_blank">slammed</a> the fine as "insulting and a slap on the wrist."</p><p>"How much is the health, safety, and life of an essential worker worth? Based on the actions of the Trump administration, clearly not much," said UFCW president Marc Perrone.</p><p>"This so-called 'fine' is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic," Perrone added. </p><p>Other critics, including vegans, vegetarians, and animal rights and environmental advocates argued that the accelerated spread of Covid-19 from meatpacking facilities is but the latest compelling argument in favor of reducing—or eliminating—meat consumption.</p><p>"We know that Covid-19 originated in a meat market and that previous influenza viruses originated in pigs and chickens," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-shortage-slaugherhouses-go-vegan/" target="_blank">said</a> in April amid news that a Foster Farms slaughterhouse in Livingston, California was <a href="https://www.peta.org/blog/coronavirus-covid-19-slaughterhouse-meat-concerns/?utm_source=PETA::Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=0420::veg::PETA::Twitter::Workers%20Blame%20Major%20Pig%20Slaughterhouse%20600%20Infected%20COVID-19::::tweet" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ordered closed</a> by local health authorities due to a Covid-19 outbreak that killed eight employees.</p>
<div id="28490" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="48ddd3480a2beb42597d9516ef652f0f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1252416495990140929" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! @SmithfieldFoods allegedly took NO PRECAUTIONS to protect the safety of its workers, leaving o… https://t.co/viAJ026pLy</div> — PETA (@PETA)<a href="https://twitter.com/peta/statuses/1252416495990140929">1587434336.0</a></blockquote></div><p>"It's not a matter of <em>whether</em> using and killing animals for food will give rise to another disease outbreak—it's a matter of <em>when</em>," said PETA. "There has never been a better, more obvious time for businesses to put an end to their dirty trade of slaughtering animals for their flesh." </p>
By Andrea Willige
More than half of the world's population lives in cities, and most future population growth is predicted to happen in urban areas. But the concentration of large numbers of people and the ecosystems built around their lives has also been a driver of climate change.