Press Releases and Media Advisories for the West Berkeley Community Monitoring Project

   

For Immediate Release August 28, 2007
NEW AIR TESTS REVEAL UNSAFE LEVELS OF TOXIC METALS NEAR PACIFIC STEEL
Nearly One Third of Tests Show High Levels of Health Threatening Toxins in Air

(Berkeley, CA)--Community air tests taken near Pacific Steel Castings foundry in West Berkeley reveal high levels of toxic metals nickel and manganese. According to an independent international health expert, Mark Cherniak, Ph.D., the levels of metals found in the samples were hundreds of times higher than deemed safe by the World Health Organization.   The nearest and largest facility known to emit the metals is Pacific Steel.

PSC PRAccording to Mark Cherniak, Ph.D:  “The data you obtained reveals unsafe ambient air levels of manganese and nickel.  In particular, manganese levels at 700 block of Gilman Street were 4-5 times the World Health Organization’s guideline value for this contaminant; nickel levels at this location were 180-220 times the U.S. EPA reference concentration for this contaminant.  Manganese levels at  600 block of Gilman Street and 1300 block of 3rd Street were 10-20 times the World Health Organization’s guideline value for this contaminant; nickel levels at these locations were up to 330 times the U.S. EPA reference concentration for this contaminant.  All the above-mentioned levels of manganese and nickel also exceed the less stringent Chronic Reference Exposure Levels for these contaminants established by the California Office of Environmental Heath Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). There are several data suggesting that PSC is the source of these excessive levels of contaminants.”

Pacific Steel released 691.3 pounds of manganese and 55.8 pounds of nickel in 2005 alone, according to government agency data.  At the locations where monitoring found excessive levels of both manganese and nickel, manganese levels exceeded nickel levels.
“Our project focuses on monitoring the industrial pollution, specifically the heavy metals tied to the emissions inventory of the Pacific Steel Casting Company, which is the third largest foundry of its kind in the nation,” stated Dale Dualan, member of the Community Monitoring Team.  “What we have found very unique about this study are not only the results we discovered, but the fact that this study represents the first time there has ever been any systematic monitoring of the air in West Berkeley despite decades of complaints and health concerns about Pacific Steel’s emissions.” 

 “These test results are even more proof that Pacific Steel must immediately stop its pollution that threatens the health of the community” said Bradley Angel, Executive Director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice. “The health of residents is more important than corporate profits.”

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According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “Exposure to high levels of airborne manganese, such as in a manganese foundry or battery plant, can affect motor skills such as holding one's hand steady, performing fast hand movements, and maintaining balance. Exposure to high levels of the metal may also cause respiratory problems and sexual dysfunction. Because at certain ages children take in more than adults, there is concern that children may be more susceptible to the toxic effects of excess manganese.”

The California Air Resources Board banned the use of manganese additives in gasoline in 1976.  It is highly unlikely that, more than 30 years later, appreciable levels of manganese are being re-suspended by vehicle traffic.

ATSDR also sites nickel as “Damage to the lung and nasal cavity has been observed in rats and mice breathing nickel compounds. People working in nickel refineries or nickel-processing plants have experienced chronic bronchitis and reduced lung function.”

Manganese and nickel levels were highest at locations closest to and downwind from Pacific Steel Castings facility.   The highest levels of manganese and nickel were obtained at the closest sampling locations at a time when prevailing winds were generally towards this location from Pacific Steel. 
  
About Pacific Steel Casting
Pacific Steel Casting, located in West Berkeley, is the third largest steel foundry of its kind in the country. According to the California Air Resources Board, the emissions for of some PSC airborne pollutants (benzene, copper, cresols, phenol, and zinc) have increased by over 160%.   PSC’s manganese and Nickel emissions increased 51.6% during this period, formaldehyde increased 127.2%, lead increased by 128.5%, total particulates by 13.7% and pm 2.5 by 11%. PSC is the ONLY industrial source of manganese and it also accounts for 99% of all industrial nickel emissions from the 33 West Berkeley industrial sources (CARB data base).

About the monitoring
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has provided a grant to Global Community Monitor so that the Berkeley community could conduct an air monitoring study. The project began in May and will run through the end of the summer.  A portable air sampler that provides accurate and precise results is being used to sample the air for PM 10 particulates with the focus on collecting heavy metals (Lead, Manganese, Nickel, Zinc, Chromium, Copper). 

About the Global Community Monitor & Community Monitoring Team
Global Community Monitor (GCM) is an international non-profit organization working with West Berkeley industrial neighborhoods to identify various airborne pollutants known to be emitted by point sources in the area. The community monitoring team is an all volunteer group organized to assist in the air monitoring project. This monitoring represents the first time there has been any systematic air sampling in West Berkeley despite decades of complaints of odors, dust and health concerns about Pacific Steel’s emissions.

For more information: www.berkeleycitizen.org

Media Advisory
New "Heavy Metal" Toxic Air Tests Linked to Troubled Berkeley Scrap Steel Plant- Volunteer Monitor Team to Report First Significant Tests of Pacific Steel Casting August 26, 2007

WHAT:  Press Conference to introduce the Berkeley Community Monitoring Team and reveal first air sample results taken over the past few months directly downwind of Pacific Steel Casting, the troubled scrap steel plant that has run afoul of regulators and neighbors for 20 years.

WHEN:  Tuesday, August 28, 2007, 11:00 AM

WHERE:   1340 8th Street, Berkeley, CA, one of the actual monitoring sites!

WHO: Berkeley Community Monitoring Team, Greenaction, Pacific Steel Casting neighbors, People suffering health problems in West Berkeley.

WHY: New community air testing evidence suggests that Pacific Steel Casting (PSC) is the source of these excessive levels of contaminants and further reveals unsafe ambient air levels of manganese and nickel. The monitoring project represents the first time there has been any systematic air sampling in West Berkeley despite decades of complaints and health concerns about Pacific Steel's emissions.  PSC is known to emit manganese and nickel: 691.3 pounds of manganese and 55.8 pounds of nickel in 2005 according to government agency data.  At the locations where monitoring found excessive levels of both manganese and nickel, these levels were found in proportions similar to PSC's known emissions of these metals.  According to an independent international health expert who has reviewed the results extensively, Mark Chernaik, Ph.D., the levels of metals found in the samples were hundreds of times higher than deemed safe by the World Health Organization.   The nearest and largest facility known to emit the metals is PSC.

About Pacific Steel Castings
Pacific Steel Casting, located in West Berkeley, is the third largest steel foundry of its kind in the country. According to the UC School of Public Health, PSC toxic air emissions have increased 160% recently.  These toxic air contaminants consist of substances that have been targeted in the U.S. and California for tracking and emission reductions because they are know to be toxic to humans at even low levels of exposure.

About the monitoring
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has provided a grant to Global Community Monitor so that the Berkeley community could conduct an air monitoring study. The project began in May and will run through the end of the summer.  A Bay Area Air District approved portable air sampler is being used to sample the air for PM 10 particulates with the focus on collecting heavy metals that Lead, Manganese, Nickel, Zinc, Chromium, Copper.

About the Global Community Monitor & Berkeley Community Monitoring Team
Global Community Monitor (GCM) is an international non-profit organization working with West Berkeley industrial neighborhoods to identify various airborne pollutants known to be emitted by point sources in the area. The Berkeley Community Monitoring Team is an all volunteer group organized to assist in the air monitoring project.

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