Dow Chemical, Always Helping The Kids. By Polluting The Air

If you worry about pollution -- especially in light on the EPA's latest study of the cancer risk posed by air pollution -- you might see that instead of threatening our lives, air pollution actually helps all of us, especially those of us who are most vulnerable, the kids.

For purposes of illustration, we present a case handled yesterday by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which approved an agreed order that assessed the Dow Chemical Co. a penalty of $166,465 for violating state pollution laws.

That's a lot of money any way you slice it.

The case against Dow dealt with six separate pollution incidents at the company's Freeport complex, of which the most excessive began on June 26, 2005, and didn't end until Aug. 13, 2005.

In sheer volume, it was a doozy -- 148,905 pounds of volatile organic compounds, 105,438 pounds of carbon monoxide, 13,868 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and 1,682 pounds of benzene were released during a 1,160-hour time period.

And then there were five other incidents in the ensuing years, the documents show. The average citizen might ask, why? Why can't a world-class company and its array of brilliant engineers and technicians operate a chemical manufacturing plant a better way? And, perhaps more importantly, the average citizen even may ask, "Is this shit gonna kill me?"

This is where you have to get your mind right.

Delving further into the details, it comes into focus.

Of the $166,465 penalty assessed Dow, half of that money will be set aside for the Houston-Galveston Area Emission Reduction Credit Organization, which will give the money to Brazoria County school districts to replace or "retrofit" older school buses with newer, alternative-fueled or clean fuel diesel buses.

The state's legal documents note that "passengers, drivers and students" are "subject to harmful diesel exhaust emission every school day" that "is known to cause or exacerbate a number of respiratory diseases, including asthma."

So, there you have it. In a nutshell, no humongous pollution incidents, no money to fix the school-bus problem. No money to fix the school bus problem, rampant asthma and other respiratory issues among the children.

We can't presume to speak for Dow, but we'll venture a guess that's what they've been thinking all along, because really, when you get down to it, no matter what we do in life, it's all about the children. Thanks, Dow.

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Steve Olafson