SALT LAKE CITY - Stericycle opponents took on the Utah State Health Department on Thursday, Feb. 13, saying the study they released on Tuesday, Feb. 11, will not settle the matter of the incinerator’s safety nor does it exonerate Stericycle.
The protest comes a day after Stericycle representatives met with the Clipper to share their side of the story (see separate story).
“There is no health issue that’s ever been studied, where every study has shown the same result,” Dr. Brian Moench, president of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment said at Thursday’s protest. Even the universally accepted idea that smoking causes cancer was established because of the results of thousands of studies supporting the conclusion, he said.
A group of environmentalists from North Salt Lake and Tooele counties met in front of Gov. Gary Herbert’s Office on Thursday afternoon to protest the findings of the health study, their outrage that the governor’s office and the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration are involved in helping Stericycle relocate and that the Utah Division of Air Quality failed to levy a penalty for extreme violations the DAQ says Stericycle committed, including toxic emissions, rigging test burns and submitting false reports to the state.
“Why would our state official help a chronic toxic polluter that is charged with really serious violations move to another part of our state and pollute there?” questioned Natasha Hincks, one of the co-founders of Communities for Clean Air.
Tooele resident Mike Abdo added, “It is unacceptable that instead of fining Stericycle and shutting their problem-plagued incinerator down, Gov. Herbert and state agencies are more interested in playing a shell game, merely moving the polluter from one community to another.”
Expanding on his comments about the findings of the health department, Moench said, “The preponderance of evidence from the entire body of worldwide medical research is that incinerators are health hazards for the environment and public health in general,” Moench maintained, “but especially for people who live nearby.”
Moench believes the way the health department conducted its study is flawed.
It used the rest of the state as a control group, which to Moench, is a problem, “because 80 percent of the population lives along the Wasatch Front, where other environmental factors, such as our air pollution could be expected to obscure differences, as well as the fact that Stericycle’s emissions extend far beyond the study area,” he said.
“The most adjacent neighborhood, Foxboro, should have been studied separately by itself as well, because the area that was studied included a much larger area, more likely to have impacts obscured by other sources of pollution, like refineries and freeways,” Moench contends.
He said study presenters made a statement that was bewildering to him ‘ that increased rates of seven of 42 cancers; colon, rectal, bone and joint, melanoma, breast, brain and prostate cancers ‘ were highly preventable through lifestyle choices and regular screenings.
“Let me correct the health department on this,” Moench said. “Cancers are not ever preventable by screenings, they are detectable, but not 'preventable’ by screening and there is a huge clinical difference.”
The study was also flawed, Moench said, because most solid cancers take several decades to develop. Foxboro subdivision was built only about 10 years ago.
“This kind of investigation done by the state will be incomplete and therefore inconclusive for decades into the future.”
Some time ago, Foxboro residents requested a meeting with Herbert to discuss Stericycle. On Wednesday it was announced the meeting has been set for Feb. 26.