A petition by Midlothian, Texas, residents has prompted a federal agency under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate whether to begin a study of possible health effects of Texas Industries’ cement kilns. A group at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, after meeting Wednesday with officials from the Texas Department of State Health Services, agreed to begin a review of existing data on contaminants and public health, said ATSDR spokeswoman Jennifer Lyke. The petition effort was spearheaded by Salvador Mier, who retired from the Dallas office of the CDC about a decade ago.
"I know this is a very emotionally charged issue in this community," Mr. Mier said Thursday, "but wouldn’t it be great if this cloud that was hanging over this community for so many years was a little less cloudy?"
Texas Industries spokesman Randy Jones said that state studies concluded in the mid-1990s that there were no ill health effects in the Midlothian area, "and since then our emissions have decreased. We’ll wait for the conclusion [of the study], but I’m confident the conclusion will be the same as it has been for the past eight years or more," he said.
But Mr. Jones said Texas Industries won’t be passive. He questions the petitioners and ATSDR singling out his company when there are two other cement kilns in Midlothian. "We’re going to question that, the methodology," he said. "I’ve talked to the Texas Department of Health and asked them that question. Most of the time, you want to look at total impact. I’d like to understand a bit more about how they’re doing it."
Jim Ross, an Arlington lawyer working with environmental activist and researcher Erin Brockovich to determine whether to file a lawsuit against Midlothian industries, welcomed the ATSDR study but said it would not change his investigation. Mr. Ross said his firm has interviewed several hundred Midlothian residents by telephone since Ms. Brockovich held a town hall meeting that drew 500 people on June 9.
"We’re both trying to ascertain whether there’s any health risk connected to the community," he said about the new federal study. "But ours is twofold: If there is a health risk connection, does it warrant some action? And I don’t know the answer to either of those questions yet."