Environment & Science

Cement kiln pollution gets public airing in LA

Federal regulators in Los Angeles this week are asking for public comment about proposed regulations to cut air pollution from cement manufacturing. KPCC’s Molly Peterson reports.

A few international corporations dominate the cement industry. They have about a hundred plants in the U.S. with three of the largest in San Bernardino County. The companies use kilns to heat limestone to make cement and those kilns emit particulate matter into the air – notably, mercury. Mercury’s a toxin that can cause developmental and neurological damage in children and other vulnerable people.

The process also creates hydrocarbons, a precursor to smog, which can cause respiratory illness and asthma. The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, now up for public comment, would cut those and other dangerous substances by up to 90 percent.

The EPA estimates that improvements to public health and other benefits will save billions of dollars. The cement industry objects to the regulations estimated to cost companies hundreds of millions of dollars a year.