The New Downwinders
The New Downwinders is a developing body of work bringing attention to Stericycle, a medical waste incinerator in North Salt Lake City, Utah. Stericycle routinely emits harmful toxins into the air. This spring, legendary environmental whistleblower Erin Brockovich sent a toxicology team from Integrated Resource Management, LLC. to test the attic dust of homes in the Foxboro neighborhood for dioxin. Dioxin is a highly toxic compound that damages the immune system, interferes with hormones, causes cancer, as well as reproductive and developmental problems. The team, led by Robert Bowcock, found that attic dust at the home nearest to Stericycle was 72.6 units (pg/p) of measurement, up from previous EPA testing indicating 4 units (pg/p).
Nearby residents are frightened and angry. They are clearly being poisoned by what Stericycle is releasing into the atmosphere. The children of Foxboro are sick and their parents are unable to sell their homes and move away. Ironically, some of these families are direct descendants of the first “downwinders”, those affected by the nuclear testing facilities in the American West between 1945 and 1980. Many people have joined the effort to bring accountability to the process of medical waste incineration at Stericycle. Statewide clean air groups have advocated for tighter restrictions, and protests continue to pressure the state to support the closure of Stericycle. The New Downwinders calls attention to the plight of these families while portraying them as fierce defenders of home and family, rather than merely victims of corporate greed and governmental compromise.
Stericycle may be moving soon to Toole, Utah, just west of Salt Lake City. The families of Foxboro are not satisfied, as they believe no one, in any community, should be subjected to the toxicity emitted from profit driven corporations. Further, while the move to Toole may reduce some of the problem for Foxboro residents, the wind will blow it all back into the Salt Lake City area, increasing the community’s already disastrously poor air quality.