via wikimedia.
An example of air pollution via wikimedia.

Paramount residents are scared that high concentrations of a carcinogen in their air could be dangerous, so Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn Tuesday said she’ll seek fast action at the next board meeting to make the environment safe.

Hahn added her voice to those of regulators and residents worried about elevated levels of hexavalent chromium, even though a local business suspected of being a source of the carcinogen disputed official findings.

Hahn said her motion calls for expedited review of a regulatory order to reduce emissions. “Hexavalent chromium is a known human carcinogen and the levels found were several hundred times greater than the typical background levels in Paramount,” Hahn said in a motion she intends to bring next week calling for expedited review of a regulatory order to reduce emissions.

On Nov. 30, the South Coast Air Quality Management District identified two businesses, Anaplex Corporation and Aerocraft Heat Treating Company, as significant sources of chromium emissions, Hahn said.

The following day, county public health officials directed both companies to take immediate action to reduce emissions, including potentially suspending operations if necessary to eliminate danger to the public.

The hearing board of the SCAQMD will hold a public hearing Wednesday to consider an order of abatement that seeks to have the two companies end non- compliant operations or otherwise reduce emissions.

A spokesman for Anaplex said the company is employee-owned and most of its roughly 70 employees live in and around Paramount, so their interests are aligned with those of other residents and regulators.

“We believe we’ve taken affirmative steps to address some of the issues that AQMD has raised,” spokesman Adan Ortega told City News Service.

But the AQMD “cited readings, to justify the order, taken when Anaplex was not operating,” Ortega said, adding that just 14 of 80 industrial facilities in the area carry permits to operate.

“There’s a whole universe of companies that are probably a little more difficult to inspect and hunt down,” Ortega said.

Some residents in the area, which has a high concentration of industrial uses, have criticized regulators for not acting earlier.

“Paramount has become the dumping ground for industries that would be laughed out of other cities,” said Laurie Guillen, who identified herself as a near 49-year resident. Adding that she’d learned to pick and choose her battles, Guillen told the board, “This is one we’re not going to walk away from.”

One local teacher sought to tie the emissions to dangerous health problems.

“I’ve had several cases of leukemia in my classroom,” she told the board. “These are 5-year-old children.” However, no evidence was provided to show any causal relationship between those specific children’s illnesses and local air quality.

The SCAQMD has been been monitoring for toxic metals, particularly hexavalent chromium and nickel, since 2013. In August, staffers reported hexavalent chromium levels in one residential area — at Vermont Avenue near Jefferson Street — at five times higher than typical background levels in Southern California.

In late October, a monitor in the vicinity of Madison Street and Minnesota Avenue, a mostly industrial area, measured localized levels of the heavy metal about 350 times higher than typical background levels, leading to the public health directive. Both Anaplex and Aerocraft Heat Treating operate nearby.

The agency noted that breathing high levels of hexavalent chromium for many years can increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.

Estimated cancer risks at the Vermont Avenue site were approximately 165- in-a-million, if the elevated chromium levels persisted for 30 years, according to a SCAQMD report. By comparison, the overall average cancer risk across the South Coast Air Basin from all air toxic emissions sources is roughly 900-in-a-million, the agency said.

Anaplex and Aerocraft process parts for the aerospace and defense industries and Ortega said the Anaplex workforce was highly skilled. A spokesman for Aerocraft was not immediately available.

The Board of Supervisors will hear a report from the Department of Public Health and county lawyers next week on what more can be done.

–City News Service 

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