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Health and coke oven emissions not just a local issue

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What do Birmingham, AL and Buffalo have in common? They both are concerned about the health effect of coke emissions.

Environmental Health Scientist Dr. Shaun Crawford visited Buffalo this weekend, giving a presentation as a Technical Advisor to Citizen Science Community Resources. He said Tonawanda Coke and CSCR have been successful in reducing pollution and initiating community studies.

“Much more successful than down in Birmingham where we’ve had bribery charges, corruption and criminal indictments,” said Crawford. “It was good for me to come up and share my story here and to hear about how you guys are successful up here in Buffalo, so I might take that back to Birmingham.”

Crawford said he and CSCR Director Jackie James-Creedon started collaborating in 2009 studying coking operations. Since then, Buffalo has seen criminal charges and a settlement to do community studies. Birmingham has a long way to go.

Environmental Health Scientist Shaun Crawford, PhD

“The Environmental Protection Agency, after digging up some dirt in some yards and not doing the health study,” said Crawford, “which was the only thing the community had asked the EPA to, they packed up and went back to Atlanta, Georgia, region 4, and we couldn’t figure out why we weren’t getting the attention we were promised.”

Crawford said his confidence in creating change is wavering due to the political climate, but he doesn’t want to give up on trying to create some relief for marginalized communities.

“We have what has been termed as epidemic asthma rates among the children in the communities out there,” said Crawford. “And there have been some other studies indicating an increased prevalence of respiratory disease in the population, so we know that there are problems from the pollution.”

The Tonawanda coke study started this past August.

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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