The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Paramount, CA:
Poisoned for Profit

Dec 5, 2016

Last month, the Southern California Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) announced that it had found chromium 6 at 350 times normal levels in the air in the city of Paramount near Los Angeles. Chromium 6 is well-known as a highly toxic substance.

The announcement of SCAQMD was no news to the people who live in the working-class neighborhoods of Paramount. For many years, they have been notifying government agencies about burning metallic odors in the air, which have been causing all kinds of ailments. One elementary school teacher alone has filed dozens of complaints since 2009. And the SCAQMD itself admits that, in the last five years alone, it has received 350 complaints in Paramount – more than 60 percent of them in relation to the metal processing plants in the area.

After years of complaints, in 2014 the agency finally named one company, Carlton Forge Works, for releasing chromium 6 and another toxic metal, cadmium, into the air – although everybody in Paramount knew that many more companies had been poisoning the air for years.

So did the SCAQMD at least shut down this one company, Carlton, until it cleaned up its emissions? Did it order Carlton to pay for the treatment of the people sickened by its poisonous emissions?

No, none of that. The agency just told Carlton to submit an “inventory of its emissions.” IT DID NOTHING, in other words. And that’s exactly what this agency, and other regulatory agencies, have done for years about massive contamination in other working-class communities nearby – such as in Vernon, caused by battery recycler Exide, and in South L.A., caused by oil field operator Allenco.

The massive poisoning of the air, soil and water in working-class neighborhoods located near industrial areas continues, and gets even worse.

In this capitalist society, companies put profit above everything, including human life. And officials leading government agencies see it as their job to help big companies maximize their profits. The working-class people living in these areas know this by experience. Many also know that any improvement, even small, has and will come from their own organized struggle against the companies.