Study to Examine Factory's Effect on Nearby Residents

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In January, a new study will begin testing blood samples of West Berkeley residents living near a steel plant for the presence of hazardous pollutants.

The study is being conducted by Global Community Monitor, a nonprofit environmental organization, to look at the impacts of nickel and manganese in the air near Pacific Steel Casting, a factory that air quality officials say is responsible for producing the majority of both chemicals in the area.

"We wouldn't say it's the only source, but it is the majority," said Aaron Richardson, spokesperson for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Ruth Breech, coordinator for the study, said the blood tests will specifically look for the chemicals known to be emitted by Pacific Steel Casting.

"We believe (the study) is the next logical step," Breech said. "We want to boil it down to the crux of the matter, 'Is this in my blood?'"

Despite a report released by the district earlier this year that shows emissions near the site comply with national and state health standards, community members claim this new study will focus on the chemicals' effects on residents' health.

"There is nothing more sensitive as a monitor as the human body," said L A Wood, a member of the Berkeley Air Monitoring Group, which is working in conjunction with the study.

The study will begin after it goes through a mandatory internal review board in December, as do all studies that involve testing humans, said Breech. There will be a public discussion of the tests at a meeting Wednesday.

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