The EPA’s Stalin era

shrub’s toxic legacy

Surveys conducted by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry have found elevated levels of kidney, liver and cervical cancer, leukemia and low birth weights in the neighborhoods that surround Kelly Air Force Base. A survey by the University of Texas found that 91 percent of adults in the area experienced multiple illnesses, including chronic sinus infections, nausea, heart and lung disease. Based on these studies, the area qualifies as a cancer cluster (with a higher rate of terminal illness, per capita, than areas of a similar size), says Wilma Subra, a chemist and environmental health activist based in Louisiana, who has consulted with Kelly community activists.

Although it has conducted limited testing, the EPA acknowledges that it’s possible for PCE vapor to rise from groundwater into people’s living rooms and kitchens. Yet it says the Alvarados and their neighbors have nothing to fear. Based on EPA air quality tests inside five area homes, the nation’s environmental guardian claims that it’s safe for residents to live above the plume for the next 40 to 100 years, or the amount of time it will take for the chemicals to naturally dissipate.


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