Asphalt plant — Vote ‘no’ for health reasons

As a former environmental chemist, I’m asking the county board to vote “no” on the proposed East State Street asphalt plant. I was a chemist for a large waste disposal and recycling company for almost 25 years. I was a committee member of ASTM [American Society for Testing Materials], submitted analytical methods to various agencies for approval, reviewed scientific studies after submission to the various agencies, and acquired laboratory certification for the company. This was a time when the various regulatory agencies began.

Now, I am on the side of health and safety from a historical point of view. Why is it that the various agencies can’t agree whether a chemical compound is “bad” or “not bad”? From my experience, being a member of committees, each scientist in the committee has his or her own agenda and ego. As laboratory instrumentation becomes increasingly more sensitive and selective, and scientists become more familiar with the human genome, the exposure limits to suspected hazardous, carcinogenic and even undiscovered “bad” chemical compounds will, in my opinion, continually decrease. Hibernation time in the human body of these “bad” chemical compounds might require 10, 20 or 30 years to cause genetic abnormalities and/or malignant cell formation. What we do know is that the “Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contained in asphalt are an important class of chemical hazards. These compounds or their metabolites can interact with DNA, resulting in covalent bonding between chemicals and biological macromolecules and consequent damage to DNA.”

Details at and

Knowing this, why allow these chemicals to be released so close to a residential neighborhood? Today’s board members may not still be in office 10 years from now, but some residents may be feeling the side effects of the plant at that future time. Please vote “no” on the asphalt plant.

Bruce Blair

From the Oct. 19-25, 2011, issue

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