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Blacks are more vulnerable to breathing creosote fumes because of genetic makeup, report notes.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO  - Creosote used to treat railroad ties in The Dalles can pose a particular health concern for African-Americans when emitted in the air, according to a new investigation by The Cascadia Times. African-Americans are particularly vulnerable to air emissions from a railroad tie plant in The Dalles that preserves the ties with creosote, according to a new piece by freelance reporters Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate in Cascadia Times, a Portland-based online environmental journal.

Koberstein, a frequent contributor to Sustainable Life and the Portland Tribune, has co-authored with Applegate an exhaustive look at air pollution and health issues associated with railroad tie maker AmeriTies at its plant 80 miles east of Portland.

In the third installment in his series, entitled "Wrong number," Koberstein and Applegate analyze a newly released federal report on health issues stemming from the plant's air emissions, produced by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority.

"Most substances in the outdoor air that cause odors are not at levels that can harm health," ATSDR relayed in a letter released at a May 8 public meeting in The Dalles.

The Cascadia Times installment traced a history of questionable work by the federal agency, including its failure to alert the public about formaldehyde that contaminated emergency trailers provided to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita back in 2008.

African-Americans are more vulnerable to health impacts from creosote usage because of a genetic trait that makes them unable to inhale naphthalene before it does damage, the report notes.

Naphthalene, the active ingredient in mothballs, is one of many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contained in creosote fumes, the report notes.

Read the full piece here: www.times.org/wrong-number

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