This post may come as a surprise to many of you, it has been surprising to many of my environmental activist friends, cement isn’t eco-friendly. Cement is a product many believe to be an eco-friendly product, seeing as it’s “natural” and “non-toxic.” Cement is used in those fancy, eco-friendly, recycled glass countertops. You can even use cement in LEED certified buildings. But cement holds a dirty secret, one that you may not want to know, cement is killing people!
No, it’s not likely killing you, it’s killing the people that are unlucky enough to live near a cement kiln. I am one of those people. I live just 2.5 miles from a cement kiln and I know all too well the damage it does.
The problem with cement is it takes a lot of energy to heat it up to the high temperature it requires. The energy may come from coal, natural gas, hazardous waste, tires, and other materials. The kiln near me uses several different materials for its energy, including; coal, natural gas, tires, and other material considered to be non-hazardous waste. It’s these materials that are used for energy that are causing the pollution. Did you know cement kilns are the second largest contributor of mercury emissions in the U.S.?
Mercury isn’t the only thing these cement kilns are releasing, other toxins include; dioxins, ammonia, benzene, certain glycol ethers, chromium, diethanolamine, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, ethylene glycol, lead, manganese, sulfuric acid, and zinc compounds. Most of the kilns that burn tires, like the kiln that is near me, are high priory violators of the Clean Air Act. The kiln near me violated over 1,000 times in 2005 and was only fined $321,000. They are still a violator of the Clean Air Act, proving this fine didn’t fix the problem.
Many of the things these kilns are releasing are known carcinogens, some of the other toxins are known to cause other health concerns. Cancer rates in my town are above the state average, which is above the national average. Doctors in the area have commented on the high rates of cancer, as well as high asthma rates. It seems like everyone around here has asthma, including myself.
Unfortunately, things could get even worse for towns like mine. Early last month a bill past the House that would allow cement kilns to be exempt from the Clean Air Act. Rep. Henry Waxman had this to say about the bill.
“If the bills we consider today are enacted, there will be more cases of cancer, birth defects, and brain damage. The ability of our children to think and learn will be impaired because of their exposure to mercury and other dangerous air pollutants.”
Cement is a reminder that just because something seems green once we buy it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a large environmental impact. You can find out just how close you are to a cement kiln by using Earthjustice’s interactive map of cement kilns. Also please contact your senator and tell them to vote no on the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and to support clean air.
About the Author: Lisa Sharp is passionate about green living, organic food, animals, and natural medicine. She is an environmental activist, green living expert, and freelance writer. Her blog is Retro Housewife Goes Green, it is all about her journey to be green. She is also the founder and editor of Green Oklahoma, a green news and resource site for Oklahomans. You can also follow Lisa on twitter @Retrohousewife5 and Facebook.
Photo Credit: abarndweller