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NPR Series Examines Loopholes in Toxic Air Regulations, Danger to Exposed Communities

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Federal and state air pollution regulations are lacking when it comes to toxic air emissions, according to the new NPR series Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities. A joint investigation by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity looks at air pollution across the country, and how some industries are finding regulatory loopholes.In part one of the four-part series, reporters reveal the Environmental Protection Agency's 'secret watch list,' which the agency uses to monitor chronic polluters. Despite the list and existing regulations, some industrial facilities are still in blatant violation of their permits. In many cases, plants have to self-report their toxic emissions, and those measures may not be sufficient. This results in some communities disproportionately affected by toxic air emissions.The EPA's secret watch list was updated in September, and it includes 383 power plants, refineries, chemical plants and other facilities. Half of those plants are in six states--including nearby Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Jefferson County doesn't have any industrial facilities on the list, but there is one in nearby Shelbyville.In All Things Considered this afternoon, the second piece in the series focuses on Ponca City, Oklahoma, where homes are routinely coated with a carcinogenic black powder from a nearby plant.The final two installments of Poisoned Places will air on Thursday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The stories will examine the regulations surrounding cement kilns and hazardous waste, and visit Tonawanda, New York and the Tonawanda Coke plant to look at gaps in federal air pollution regulations.