Portland, Oregon is known for its lush vegetation and environmentally friendly politics, but has recently been under fire for its dirty air and lack of air emission regulations. Toxic heavy metals such as nickel, lead, arsenic and cadmium have been found in air quality monitors throughout the city. The sources of these heavy metals are linked to three local businesses. Unfortunately, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has only implemented one air quality monitor in the city of Portland, leading to an impressive gap in official’s understanding of air emissions and quality.
In response, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has obtained funding to expand the current air toxins program. In the past, the DEQ issued permits that essentially allowed local business to pollute the air with gaseous byproducts without the need to monitor their emissions. These permits did not hold local businesses accountable for identifying the type and amount of pollutants they were emitting into the air each year, leaving surrounding townspeople’s health at risk.
As this environmental dilemma has unfolded, two DEQ air quality regulators have left their positions while state officials discovered that the DEQ staff have received years of complaints about the toxic air emissions. The state of Oregon is learning a valuable environmental lesson the hard way, and will only learn of its harsh consequences in the years to come as the Oregon Health Authority urges locals to test their health and publish the results.