Cement Plants and Cancer

The first thing you see coming in to my small town in rural Oklahoma is a smoke stack. The smoke stack is from our town’s cement plant. It’s not a very welcoming sight when know what it’s doing to the health of the town.

As a kid I lived a little less than a mile from the cement plant. Our house was always dusty, even though my mom was always cleaning. Even now living maybe 2.5 miles away I find the house is much dustier than when I lived outside of town.

But what is in that dust? Our cement plant burns tires and is rumored to be burning toxic waste. Even if it’s just the tires one of the things it’s releasing is dioxins. WHO has this to say about dioxins-

“Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen” – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems. Once dioxins have entered the body, they endure a long time because of their chemical stability and their ability to be absorbed by fat tissue, where they are then stored in the body. Their half-life in the body is estimated to be seven to eleven years. In the environment, dioxins tend to accumulate in the food chain. The higher in the animal food chain one goes, the higher is the concentration of dioxins.”

And what are the health risks?

“Short-term exposure of humans to high levels of dioxins may result in skin lesions, such as chloracne and patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function. Long-term exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions. Chronic exposure of animals to dioxins has resulted in several types of cancer.”

Here are the pollutants the EPA says that the Ada cement plant is releasing: Ammonia, benzene, certain glycol ethers, chromium, diethanolamine, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, ethylene glycol, lead, manganese, mercury, sulfuric acid, and zinc compounds.

The Ada cement plant is classified as a “high-priority violators” by EPA. It was fined $321,000 in 2005 for violating its pollution limits more than 1,000 times in a single year!

So what does this have to do with cancer? Well many of the pollutants that the cement plant releases are carcinogens. Carcinogens that the people of Ada are breathing in everyday. How much damage has already been done to my body and my families?

There is a bit of good news for those of us living near cement plants. The EPA will be cracking down on them because they don’t adhere to Clean Air Act mandates that requires companies to use the “best technology available” to reduce pollution.

After doing all the research for this post I’m horrified. I told my husband I want to move and I’m sick to my stomach. I knew the pollution from this plant was bad, but I had no idea it was this bad. I hope the EPA will make cement plants clean up their act and stop pollution our cities and our bodies!

This post is for the Green Mom’s Carnival. This month’s topic is environmental links to cancer. Go to Nature Mom’s Blog on March 8th to read what the other members had to say on this topic.

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  1. Jennae @ Green & Gorgeous says

    I can't even imagine having to live so close to a chronic polluter. This is absolutely horrific to have to live with. I'm with Diane — Has your local paper or TV station ever covered the potential health effects? Has a study ever been done? I feel an Erin Brockovich moment coming on….

  2. Blaire Johnson says

    Thanks for posting your experiences with your local cement plant. I'm so sorry that your community is suffering behind it. I recently moved to Wilmington, NC. We are trying to stop Titan Cement from bringing the nation's 4th largest cement plant to Wilmington.

    It would put 8,700 students within a 5-mile radius of the plant.

    We would love to have your voice on board.

    Thanks for your post!

  3. Eleanor Crow says

    A friend grew up close to a cement plant and remembers looking into a deep limestone pit, seeing a pond of turquoise blue liquid. His mother has leukemia. Do you know what chemical might be dumped in a rock quarry pit by concrete producers as waste, or do they accept waste in their plants to bury?
    This is Alamo Cement in San Antonio Texas, billowing dust into thousands of homes. Can you help id the blue chemical or send links to relationship between leukemia and cement plants?

    • Lisa Sharp says

      I don’t know much about the mining of the materials for cement. But I will see if I can find anything for you.

      • Dav1bg says

        The blue color might be do to a high concentration of calcium in the water, and since the quarry mines calcium carbonate that stands to reason. Calcium is what our bones are made out of so if this causes leukemia we are all in big trouble. But, I once read a study which showed that people who ate one hot dog per week had a 700% higher incidence of leukemia than the standard population.

    • Deanna says

      Benzene is a potential trigger for leukemias. My husband has multiple myeloma (a type of leukemia) and it’s thought to be triggered by exposure to benzene. So, if the cement plant is releasing that into the air his mother is breathing in, that could be one possible route of carcinogenic exposure.

  4. Dav1bg says

    China manufactures 25 times as much cement as we do. They have no pollution controls and use dirty coal. If you really want to clean up the air stop buying things made in China. What, do you think we breath different air than they do, news flash we are 5 days down wind of them.
    Where do you think these nasty chemicals come from in the first place, the cement plant processes local dirt, yet you all have somehow survived being exposed to these bad chemicals in your dirt. Mercury: if you have gray metal fillings in your teeth you have more mercury and lead in your mouth than the cement plant gives off in a year. But that is ok right? The filling is called a lead mercury amalgam filling. And where does mercury come from in the first place, coal which was living matter, which animals eat, which we eat. So quit eating steak you are getting mercury. All these chemicals are all around you, they failed to tell you about the concentration the cement plant exposes you to. Just because you can detect some “bad” chemical doesn’t mean it is in a concentration which will hurt you. Cause cancer? Give me a break, what about the fast food you eat, the gas fumes from filling your car, cigarettes you smoke, the hand cream you cover yourself with? Styrofoam plates are made out of benzene a known carcinogen, but it is ok to eat off of them and blame the cement plant for your cancer?
    But I do know that the plant provides over a hundred good living wage jobs which support another thousand jobs in your community. So please quit running around in circles yelling the sky is falling. The Denver Post once reported that the EPA found Plutonium in the cement from a local cement plant. Plutonium can only be made in a nuclear reactor; I doubt that they had a hundred billion dollar nuclear reactor at their cement plant. The EPA uses fear to justify their jobs.

    • says

      David: First off, I believe you work for the cement industry? I checked because this sounded like an industry reply.

      Second, if you had read more of my blog you would pick up on the fact that I am concerned about air in China. I avoid China made products for a lot of reasons including their environmental impact.

      I don’t have mercury fillings, because I do know the danger of them, just like most dentists are switching away now.

      I don’t eat steak, I’m mostly a vegetarian. But so far we are agreeing, these things are bad, doesn’t change the fact that the output from the cement kiln is bad as well.

      I don’t drive, I work from home so I’m not in a car that much, I haven’t had fast food in years, I don’t use Styrofoam (you are right they are bad), I have never smoked (I have asthma), I used only natural/organic products on my body, etc…

      I care about carcinogens no matter where they come from and I avoid them. And if you read my blog I have only posted about cement kilns maybe a dozen times. Clearly I am worried about the things you posted as well and this isn’t a “sky is falling” post. It’s information about something people don’t hear much about. I don’t have cancer and trust me I don’t think they are causing all the cancer in my town but are they adding to the problem? Yes.

      I never said I want the plant closed, I’m very clear when talking to people about this issue that I don’t want it closed. That would just mean someone else would be polluted and yes jobs would be lost. I’m not an idiot (though you are treating me like one). Cement can be made more sustainable, that is what I want. I want the law followed and cement kilns to clean up their act.

  5. says

    Lisa way to be the bigger person. Obviously they do work for the cement plant otherwise they would of replied to your message sooner.
    Obviously he feels threatened by your post otherwise he wouldn’t have commented about it. Sounds to me like someone is being a child and pointing fingers at everyone but themselves.
    I highly doubt you will get any reaction from him (them). Keep up your good work.

  6. Ken says

    I would die in a heartbeat protecting my family but not for protecting or supporting their cement plant and it’s desire to kill me. Dying isn’t a good way to make a living.

  7. Quang Hongdang says

    I’m from Vietnam, In my country, there’s a town in Hai Duong provinece in which half of its villagers had died of cancer. This town have been changed its name to ‘Tu Liet’,it means: town-of-dead-all. Many people of this town were dead of cancer because there is a big cement plant near it.

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