There should be an investigation into the health consequences of the bauxite dust emissions in Linden

Dear Editor,

I sat at home and observed for three-four days, as I have done from time to time over the years,   a coloured misty-like mixture of dust and smoke being discharged into the atmosphere from a towering metal chimney changing colour from pink-brown to gold-brown to peachlike to rust-brown. And how ironic it is to see this hazardous matter creating such beautiful artistic formations against a backdrop of white-grey blue sky. I sat and watched as it climbed into the sky, blended and drifted across the Linden community, taking up residence in homes as an uninvited guest.

This disgusting agent has long been the ‘Dennis the Menace‘ of residents, destroying their homes, window curtains, chair sets and furniture, and many other items. Most importantly, it is a health hazard, and has from the inception been part and parcel of a kind of unwritten agreement for employment and economic development. Oscar Wallerson, a former bauxite worker and poet wrote over 30 years ago in his poem ‘Dust‘: “Dust dust and yet more dust, provider for thousands, dancing   an undying dance… Yet I always pray let there be dust and forever dust or who will provide for the thousands?”

But surely we have come a long way since then; the world has entered a new zone where industries are compelled to address the question of pollutants, irritants and any suspected toxic matter. They cannot be overlooked any longer, but must be treated as a number one priority, thus ensuring the safety and longevity of man and his environment, I doubt if there is anyone brazen enough to contest the harmful effect of the dust nuisance that folks in this mining community have endured for decades. It has indeed done its fair share of damage, and I dare say beyond our imagination. In 2008 Linden IMC chairman Orin Gordon noted that no serious investigation has ever been carried out to determine the health implications of several years of dust emissions on the population, and demanded the setting up of “appropriate laboratory and medical facilities in Linden to pursue investigation into the impact of dust emission on the community.“

This proposal should be endorsed by all Lindeners with a renewed voice. One has got to listen to residents speak to get an insight into some of the problems and illnesses brought about as a result of years of inhaling bauxite dust. One man complained of a doctor examining him and advising him to stop smoking, when he had never in his life held a cigarette!

But it is the Environmental Protection Agency in whose arms this matter falls and who must take the fall for dereliction of duty and for the existing dust hazard.  Stabroek Business of March 11, 2011 in an article ‘EPA should have long read riot act to Bosai over dust collector‘ stated: “Failure by the Chinese bauxite company to install a dust collector at its Linden plant despite repeated promises to do so has to be attributed in part to the failure of the EPA to hold the company to its word.“ It further stated: “Bosai itself has made several promises and given several deadlines for starting and completing the installation of the dust extractor.” The two deadlines for the installation of the dust collector were given as September, 2009, then April 2010; this year (2011) they have promised that by September it should be in place. The article also pointed out that the EPA executive director in a signed letter said: “If the company fails to comply with the recommendations and requirements of the agency penalties could be instituted…” Well, we have only to wait and see. When ‘Gandhi‘ – a resident – referred to the community as the “dusty town” he was dead accurate; dust particles settle everywhere – in every nook and cranny, covering our skin; Linden folks eat, sleep and breathe dust. Granted that the dust situation predates Bosai, the time has come for it to be addressed.

When a thorough and in-depth investigation is finally done I contend that there will be some alarming revelations about the effect of this bauxite dust emission over the decades. There was once a saying, more dust more employment. At that time the company employed over 5,000 workers. This is not so any more; now we have the reverse – more dust with less than 400 workers!

Yours faithfully
Frank Fyffe

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