An Ill Wind From Factory Farms

September 22nd, 2003

To the Editor,

Mr. Schaeffer must have lived a nightmare existence within the EPA, knowing he was prohibited from doing the job the American people thought he was hired to do. My personal experiences also show that the EPA is an empty promise and false reassurance to the public in most cases.

Last summer, I sought refuge from the West Nile Virus spraying in Queens and spent a single night at a friend’s apartment on the upper East side of Manhattan. The afternoon I arrived, so did a pest control company, to exterminate two floors below in a large gourmet food store. By morning, the apartment, hallways and lobby of the apartment building were filled with pesticide fumes and I was quite ill.

Building employees told me the source was likely the grocery store and they encouraged me to report the problem. I had to ask the store manager to see me curbside as the waves of fumes coming from the open door prohibited my entry. The chemicals sprayed were acknowledged by the pest control company and I reported the incident to the EPA. They took my “indoor air quality” complaint immediately, back in the borough of Queens. But they did not visit the Manhattan building.

They declined to inquire if employees of the store were ill. They had no equipment or mandate to test the food in the store for contamination or the air in the building for safety despite the presence of babies on the affected floors. Regulations only dictate how the chemicals are supposed to be sprayed, but they only perform a records review to establish that. In the absence of an eyewitness who might claim misapplication, there is no conclusion to be reached. However they grilled me about any “hypersensitivity” I might have to the chemicals as if my body’s inability to process them was a crime against nature. Oops, pardon my deficiencies.

The EPA cannot ensure our safety because they do not investigate the hazards appropriately and no laws exist to compel effective forms of scrutiny. The aim is not to provide clean air and water but to calculate how much damage the citizenry is prepared to tolerate before we refuse to accept the consequences of polluted air and water. Few citizens can afford to test their own air to find out why they cannot breathe, have rashes and eye infections, stomach complaints, upper respiratory infections, liver and kidney damage, autoimmune diseases and even cancers. The answer in many cases is in the air…but only if you find those answers on your own time and on your own dime.

Barbara Rubin
P.O. Box 224
Locust Valley, NY 11560

Categories: NY Times

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