Daily News Archive
From November 9, 2001

Wood Treatment Company Sued by Contaminated Communities

Three communities are filing lawsuits against Kerr-McGee, a worldwide company based in Oklahoma City, for damage to the residents' health, according to PR Newswire. Each of the communities is located near one of Kerr-McGee's wood treatment facilities: Columbus, Mississippi; Bossier City, Louisiana; and Avoca, Pennsylvania. Gibbons Law Firm, representing the residents, charge that these facilities have contaminated the air, soil, surface water and groundwater of near-by communities. This pollution, they say, has had severe health effects on people residing there, such as birth defects, neurological conditions, and high cancer rates.

While the Kerr-McGee facility in Columbus is still operating, the plants in Avoca and Bossier City have been closed, although residents are still feeling the effect of the work done there. Until the mid-1970's, PCP (pentachloraphenaol) was used in Columbus, and creosote used at all three plants. Both of these chemicals contain toxins that harm human health. During the wood treatment process they produce even more toxins such as dioxin, lead, chromium, benzene and furans.

Several studies exist supporting the outcry of these three communities. Toxicologist James Dahlgren conducted research on residents in Columbus to study the effects of the Kerr-McGee facility. He collected DNA, blood and urine samples, organ system studies and medical histories. He compared the health of residents living near the wood treatment plant to the health of a community of similar socio-economic background, and found a higher rate of cancer, skin rashes, respiratory disease and neurological disorders among those in close proximity to the plant. Dr. Pat Williams of Louisiana State University did another study, which found clusters of leukemia and other cancers in an area surrounding an abandoned wood treatment plant in North Louisiana.

For more information on the toxicity of wood preserving chemicals, please contact Beyond Pesticides.