Oregon’s Air Laws are Failing Us

A look at the impact of air toxics on Oregonians and how the state’s air toxics laws are failing its residents.



It started with a patch of moss…

In 2013, U.S. Forest Service scientists began collecting samples of moss from trees in Portland, Oregon as part of a ground breaking air quality study. Based on past research indicating that concentrations of elements found in moss are reflective of atmospheric concentrations, the Forest Service was able to use those samples to not only identify air toxics, but estimate their locations and, in some cases, their sources.

The moss sample analysis revealed the presence of 22 elements in Portland’s air, including the toxic chemicals cadmium, arsenic, lead, cobalt, and chromium. A so-called “hot spot” of cadmium and lead in Southeast Portland required further research, which was conducted by the Forest Service in October of 2015, in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Their findings, released publicly in February, 2016, implicated two Portland glass factories, Bullseye Glass and Uroburos, as the source of those particular pollutants. Both factories were temporarily forced to stop using those chemicals and both were required to install air scrubbing “baghouse” technology.

Although justifiable public outrage is largely centered on the glass factories, Portland’s toxic air problem extends far beyond point sources highlighted by the Forest Service study. Air pollution experts point out that several non-point sources loom much larger in terms of overall health impacts. Wood burning stoves, diesel trucks and low quality gasoline all make Portland home to some of the very worst air quality in the country. Oregonians have done much to improve statewide water quality over the past few decades, but they have made very little headway when it comes to improving the air they breath.



The Kenton Lead Blob*

We investigate a reported lead hot spot in Kenton to determine the potential causes.


Henry’s Air

We follow one family who decided to remove their son from his preschool next to the Bullseye Glass Factory.


The Other Side

Portland glass industry representatives and local glass artists respond to the recent controversy.