06-23-2018  6:07 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

AG Rosenblum Seeks Info from Oregonians

Oregon Attorney General seeks information on children separated from families at border ...

Community Forum: How Does Law Enforcement Interact With Vulnerable Populations?

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King County Council Recognizes Juneteenth

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Unite Oregon Hosts ‘Mourn Pray Love, and Take Action’ June 20

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MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

Lawsuits allege racial profiling in Portland-area businesses

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Wildfire near Maupin more than doubles in size

MAUPIN, Ore. (AP) — A wildfire burning brush and grass near Maupin in north-central Oregon has more than doubled in size to 36 square miles (93 square kilometers).Fire officials say Saturday's efforts will include the use of helicopters to protect Maupin.The wind-driven wildfire is mostly...

Alaska city honors Guardsmen killed in crash after '64 quake

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A month after the second most powerful earthquake ever was recorded, the Alaska port community of Valdez remained in ruins.A hulking Alaska National Guard cargo plane's mission April 25, 1964, was to deliver Gov. William Egan to oversee efforts to rebuild the town on...

The Latest: Alaska city unveils memorial to fallen Guardsmen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Latest on an Alaska city honoring Guardsmen killed in crash after 1964 earthquake (all times local):1:40 p.m.Four men who died on a humanitarian mission to help rebuild an Alaska town following the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded have been honored...

OPINION

How Washington’s 'School Achievement Index' Became School Spending Index

New assessment categorizes schools not by quality of education, but level of funding officials believe they should receive ...

Black Mamas Are Dying. We Can Stop It.

Congresswoman Robin Kelly plans to improve access to culturally-competent care with the MOMMA Act ...

Hey, Elected Officials: No More Chicken Dinners...We Need Policy

Jeffrey Boney says many elected officials who visit the Black community only during the election season get a pass for doing nothing ...

Juneteenth: Freedom's Promise Still Denied

Juneteenth is a celebration of the de facto end of slavery, but the proliferation of incarceration keeps liberation unfulfilled ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Lawsuits allege racial profiling in Portland-area businesses

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Several African Americans are suing big-box stores and restaurants in Oregon, claiming employees at those places wrongly accused them of stealing because they were "shopping while black."A Portland law firm has filed five lawsuits alleging racial profiling at businesses in...

Racist tropes in Ramadan TV satires anger black Arabs

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — In an attempt to capitalize on what's become a ratings bonanza for Arabic satellite channels during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, two comedies struck the wrong chord with audiences when their lead actors appeared in blackface.Criticism was swift on...

Chaos on the border inflames GOP's split with Latinos

When more than 1,000 Latino officials __ a crop of up-and-coming representatives from a fast-growing demographic __ gathered in Phoenix last week, no one from the Trump administration was there to greet them.It marked the first time a presidential administration skipped the annual conference of the...

ENTERTAINMENT

Give up after scandals? Television history shows otherwise

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Ornate NYC theater, used for years as a gym, to be restored

NEW YORK (AP) — For years, Long Island University's basketball team played in a French Baroque movie palace in downtown Brooklyn.The gilded wall fountains, plastered statuettes and towering, one-of-a-kind Wurlitzer organ pipes of the historic Paramount Theater were preserved by the...

Vinnie Paul, co-founder, drummer of Pantera, dies at 54

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U.S. & WORLD NEWS

AP PHOTOS: Germany salvages campaign on Day 10 of World Cup

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Sanders says she was told to leave Virginia restaurant

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Stars flock to the Dior debut of Kim Jones at Paris menswear

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US moves 100 coffins to inter-Korean border for war remains

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1 dead after attack at huge rally for Ethiopia's new PM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A thwarted attempt to hurl a grenade at Ethiopia's reformist new prime...

By Helen Silvis of The Skanner News

Map of census tracts shows the communities most at risk from health effects Click on the picture to see a full-size map


Multnomah County Health Department has issued a warning that coal trains could damage health. Low-income people and people of color are most at risk because they are more likely to live near train tracks. 

The health report urges county leaders to seek a regional environmental impact statement on plans to export coal. Released March 1, the report says that advocates shouldn't have to prove coal trains will harm our health. It says coal exporters should be required to prove they won't hurt the public.

How Many People Could Be Affected?

One in nine Multnomah County residents, or about 82,000 people live within 500 meters of the rail tracks that could carry coal, and would experience some of any potential ill effects.

"I stress potential ill effects," says Dr. Gary Oxman, a doctor working for Multnomah County. "Everybody knows that bad stuff comes from working in a coal mine. We have a lot less information on what happens to coal affected communities. Studies from Appalachia and England suggest that there are health impacts  particularly on the respiratory system. But how much happens from train transports is not clear."

The report predicts that people of color, poor families and the elderly would suffer the worst potential health effects, especially those living near train tracks in North Portland and St. Johns.  

That's partly because people of color already suffer higher rates of asthma, lung disease, strokes, heart disease and stress in general. And it's partly because higher numbers of those most vulnerable populations are living in the neighborhoods closest to the railroad lines.


"A wide body of research has found that race and ethnicity are associated with health status -- independent of poverty status—because of stress, access to health care, and other factors," the report says. "The geographic areas of highest concern are located near the tracks by Columbia Boulevard and in North Portland neighborhoods (e.g.,Kenton and St. Johns). Residents in some of these areas of concern are already exposed to relatively high levels of diesel particulate matter from living near major roadways and industrial areas. The social groups of highest concern are: communities of color, children, older adults, and people earning low incomes."

Doctor Says Research is Needed

Oxman says more data is needed, showing how much coal dust is likely to enter the air supply from trains.

"We know coal dust is not good for you," he says. "What we don't know is how far the dust will spread, and whether people will inhale it in enough quantities to impact health."

That mystery could be solved, he says, by conducting research studies. And that should happen before a decision is made. 

"From a policy point of view, before we start hauling coal through highly populated areas, it is the responsibility of the railroads and the other organizations involved to prove that it's not harmful."

Plans to export coal through Oregon from the 400-mile wide Powder Mountain basin in Montana and Wyoming, were announced last summer.  Between 16-19 more trains a day, carrying 125,000 tons of coal would pass through the county – a 19-20 percent increase in train traffic.

A Threat to Health?
Known health effects from coal, and also from the diesel used by coal trains, include harm to people's lungs and breathing.  Asthma sufferers, that's 9 percent of the county's population, are particularly vulnerable.

Other concerns include the impact on children's development.

"Coal dust may contain traces of the heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, chromium, and uranium, that are toxic to the human nervous  system," the report says. "Children are particularly vulnerable to heavy metals which can lead to decreases in birth weight and children's growth rate, and intellectual development problems."

Links to cancer have not been proved, the report says, but more research is needed.

Most of the research on coal has been done on people who work in mines and live in mining communities. Far less is known about the impact of coal transportation. The companies say that new technologies can prevent the dust from blowing into our air supply. But the report says no independent research has verified this, and the research that does exist suggests weather conditions, train speed and other factors are important.

"Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, (predicts that) in 2017 the region's airshed will have on average more than ten times the level of diesel particulate that is considered safe," the report says. "However, in general, trains contribute a relatively small percentage (7 percent) of total diesel particulate air pollution in our region."

Ambre Energy, Kinder Morgan, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy are among the companies that want to send coal exports through ports in Oregon and Washington. Coal is in high demand in Asia, as less developed regions ramp up industrial production.

The report focuses on the three Oregon projects and does not look at impacts from coal barges traveling along the Columbia, or coal trains traveling along the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

Projects in Coos Bay and St. Helens and a plant in Cowlitz County are among five port projects supported by a coalition of business and labor unions. Coal exports could bring jobs in construction, maintenance of the ports, railcar construction; and also yield increased tax revenues. Opponents say, however, that jobs in agriculture, fisheries and tourism, for example, could be lost if the environment suffers.

Other problems that the report flags are: stress from noise and traffic snarlups; accidents, fires, and derailments. But the report also notes train safety has been improving.

The conclusion:  "Given the well-established risks of exposure to coal dust in occupational settings, the Health Department concludes that more research is needed to assess:

• How coal dust could disperse during coal transportation by rail and the extent that people would be exposed

• What the immediate, cumulative, synergistic and long-term health impacts of this dust could be on a community."

 

 

 

 

 

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