Dust pollution declared carcinogenic

owens_dry_lake.jpgThis month, the World Health Organization declared air pollution a human carcinogen, calling it a leading cause of cancer deaths globally. The WHO labeled air pollution as the highest of the agency’s four-level classification system. What about the Owens Dry Lake dust?

Air Pollution Control District Director Ted Schade responded to our questions about that. Schade said when he heard about the World Health Organization’s statements, he was interested to know if dust were including. He said it is among outdoor pollution sources that cause cancer.

Existing air quality laws have long considered dust particulates health hazards, but now the description has gone further declaring dust carcinogenic. Director Schade said it has long been known that Owens Lake dust worsens emphysema and athsma and is connected to heart disease, but this is the first time dust has been linked to cancer – specifically lung and bladder cancer.

With state-ordered work to clean up the Owens Dry Lake, the Department of Water and Power has reduced blowing dust by 90%, according to Schade, but he underscores that the clean up is not done yet. He said most problematic now are individual episodes of blowing dust. Schade said, “Our average air pollution is pretty low, but episodes create enormously high levels on a few days.” He said this might actually be worse and trigger bad effects.

Schade said fine dust particles did not receive research attention until the 90s. Prior to that health hazard status was focused on ozone, smog and smoke. He said, “Particulate matter like that on the dry lake may be the most harmful.” Because of the small numbers of people, the Owens Valley has not been a good statistical example to study dust and cancer. One thing Schade knows – “It’s time to bite the bullet and finish the Owens Dry Lake clean-up,” he said.

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5 Responses to Dust pollution declared carcinogenic

  1. Pedro October 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    You live next to Gobi Desert too?

  2. Roger October 26, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Do you think the increased off road activity will have any affect on:air pollution,respiration,wildlife,noise pollution, or quality of life in general?

    • Mark October 27, 2013 at 6:50 am #

      Air quality? Kind of tough to notice when we live just miles away from the biggest air polluter in the northern hemisphere.

  3. Condolences October 25, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    This news could not be any more sad and disturbing. My condolences to those who have to breathe the dust and maybe locked into having to stay in that surrounding.

    • April Zrelak October 30, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      The Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation was established 5 miles from the dried Owens Lake by the 1937 Land Exchange. LADWP decided to solve their “Indian Problem” by reaching out to the federal agency that held trust lands for the Paiutes in Owens Valley. The City’s offer was to move these people from scattered valley locations where they were “wasting water” by irrigating their food sources, and to trade these plots for smaller acreage owed by LADWP and contiguous to Lone Pine, Big Pine and Bishop. Of course, LADWP retained water rights on the traded reservation sites.

      So, the Lone Pine Tribe is the most affected and least mobile community exposed to the toxic dust from Owens Lake bed. The solution to the exposure of dust is to continue the pressure on Los Angeles to complete their dust control responsibility. Currently, the final phases of mitigation are in court. As LADWP General Manager said, “Legal fees pale in comparison to dust controls”. We can all look forward to many years of stalling in court while dust storms continue. It is all about money and water exportation.

      Support your local air pollution control officer!


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