Smelters, Public Health, and the Environment
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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List of Figures
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There are many people who helped me on the path to completing this book. Foremost among them is my family. My husband, James, took our boys on numerous day trips and weekend- long outings to provide me with the quiet, child- free space necessary for writing. The fact that this project is now complete...
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On a rare sunny January day in Ruston, Washington, hundreds of people lined the town’s streets and hillsides to catch a glimpse of destruction. Two miles away, across Puget Sound, on the south end of Vashon Island, crowds also stood waiting, binoculars pressed to their eyes, for the same reason. In between...
1. The Tacoma Smelter
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Few people who live outside of Washington State have ever heard of Ruston, Washington. The town is tiny, about one square mile, and is surrounded by Tacoma. Ruston is dominated by the ninety- plus- acre former smelter site, which occupies a prime Puget Sound waterfront location. The beauty of the area— with the snow- capped Olympic Mountains to the west, Puget Sound visible in three...
2. City of Destiny, City of Smoke
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ASARCO’s copper smelter was not the only industrial plant that was fouling Tacoma’s air. Tacoma, nicknamed the City of Destiny, decisively cast its lot with industry early in the twentieth century, inviting the use of its waters, land, and air for all types of industrial production with descriptions of the city’s industrial potential brimming with a sense of economic triumphalism. Always in competition...
3. Uncovering a Crisis in El Paso
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In the southwest border town of El Paso, Texas, ASARCO operated another massive smelter for much of the twentieth century. In contrast to Tacoma’s location on the foggy and rainy shores of Puget Sound, the El Paso smelter rose out of the parched Chihuahuan Desert, producing lead and copper from raw ore brought by rail from Mexican mines. In El Paso, the smelter’s fires were stoked largely by...
4. Bunker Hill
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In the spring of 1972, within a few weeks of the El Paso lead poisoning crisis becoming public, ASARCO chairman Charles F. Barber sent a letter to Frank Woodruff, the president of Bunker Hill Mining Company near Kellogg, Idaho. Barber was writing to alert Woodruff to the lead poisoning problem found in El Paso. He sent along an internal ASARCO report on the matter, which summarized...
5. Tacoma: A Disaster Is Discovered
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Only two months after El Paso’s lead poisoning crisis hit the front pages of newspapers across the United States, William Rodgers, a young professor of environmental law at the University of Washington, called for an investigation of the Tacoma smelter’s impact on the public health of children living nearby. In a letter to the mayor of Tacoma and the chairman of the newly formed Puget...
6. A Carcinogenic Threat
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If you drive north on Pearl Street in Tacoma and cross Forty- ninth Street heading toward Puget Sound, Pearl Street marks the division between the town of Ruston, on your right, and the city of Tacoma, on your left. Weathered wooden houses line Pearl Street and are interspersed with some local favorite businesses— the...
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When summer finally comes and the blanket of clouds that seems to cover the Puget Sound region all winter and spring lifts, if you stand on a hill in Ruston and look out to the north and west, it is easy to forget that you are standing on a site where an environmental disaster slowly unfolded over a the space of a century. The blue Puget Sound sparkles in the sun, bright white sailboats dot Commencement...
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Forty years after the discoveries at El Paso and Bunker Hill, half a world away, parents are still coping with the same anguish, their children poisoned, perhaps impaired for life because of a lack of industry and government commitment to protecting the health of people and the environment. If the U.S. experience of...
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 5 photographs, 4 maps
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Critical Issues in Health and Medicine
Series Editor Byline: Edited by Janet Golden and Rima D. Apple