Foundry vs. health
The news story “McConway & Torley steel foundry under fire in trendy Lawrenceville” presents our neighborhood’s story as a battle between uppity hipsters and salt-of-the-earth steelworkers. In doing so, staff writer Aaron Aupperlee trivializes residents’ concerns and overlooks many key details.
Consider the fact that levels of manganese, a dangerous neurotoxin, recorded at the foundry are 150 percent higher than U.S. EPA IRIS safe inhalation reference concentrations. In fact, epidemiological data show that, relative to other Pittsburgh neighborhoods, the levels of ultra-fine particulate pollution in Lawrenceville put us at increased risk for neurological and cognitive problems in both children and the elderly, cardiorespiratory ailments and early mortality.
As for the foundry “voluntarily” limiting production and monitoring pollution, it began doing so after it reached an agreement with GASP (the Group Against Smog and Pollution), but these were requirements enforced by regulatory authorities and that enabled the foundry to avoid being reclassified as a major pollution source and the risk of being regulated out of business.
But you know, we silly hipsters demanding to not wake up in the morning with our eyes watering and lungs burning from inhaling carcinogens like benzene and neurotoxins like manganese are expecting the Allegheny County Health Department to follow its mandate and make sure our air is safe by regulating foundries in our county.
The writer is an assistant professor of psychology in Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition.