Is Racism Really Behind Top State Toxicologist's Conclusion That Poisoned Communities Are Safe?

Late Friday night, as Barbara Lee, Director of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), was releasing yet another batch of racist, derogatory, disrespectful, sexist or otherwise insulting emails written by staffers about their own colleagues or the communities they regulate, environmental attorney Anthony Patchett was preparing a missive of his own.
Patchett delivered a letter today to Senate leader Kevin de Leon concerning the author of many of these emails—DTSC Senior Toxicologist William Bosan—asking whether Bosan’s attitudes impact communities begging for clean up of toxics damaging their health.
“Dr. Bosan has ignored significant environmental contamination and effects on communities, specifically children, which is illustrated by the attached copy of the transcript of his testimony in my own legal case,” Patchett wrote. 
In that case, a DTSC scientist and colleague of Bosan’s discovered 800 bullet fragments at Towers Elementary School, including in a sandbox, across the street from the Redondo Beach Police Range. Patchett is representing people who allege harm from toxic exposure to lead at the school, including chronic kidney disease.
Bosan was assigned to to review the data but did not recommend further action on the Towers Elementary School. In Patchett’s cross-examination of Bosan in 2012, he pressed Bosan to answer whether ingestion of lead fragments was a danger to children.
Q. If I were to tell you that plaintiffs in the case—one of them has testified when they attended Towers Elementary School they unknowingly would chew on the fragments in the sandbox, do you believe that would be a health hazard?
A. Not necessarily.
Q. And why is that?
A. Again it’s a matter of bioavailability. A large fragment that somebody ingests is going to pass through the body pretty much intact.”
Bosan’s testimony is contradicted by a case Patchett cites, described by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Minnesota in 2006. A 4-year-old boy who was vomiting continuously, listless, and dehydrated, was found to have swallowed a metal charm two days earlier that flooded his bloodstream with lead. By the time he went to the hospital that diagnosed the problem, it was too late. He suffered brain damage and died.
Patchett alleges that Bosan’s involvement in many site assessments led to the conclusion that nothing was in need of cleaning up by averaging samples of toxics to present the levels as safe. On that basis, “LAUSD was able to use Dr. Bosan’s mathematical formula to escape potential liability at 19 school sites for Aresenic explosure,” Patchett wrote. 
Patchett’s letter lists cases from Riverside County to the radiologically-contaminated Santa Susana Field Lab in Simi Hills to Santa Barbara in which he alleges that Bosan either denied anyone was in immediate danger of toxic harm or used techniques for measuring toxics not necessarily sanctioned by the US EPA to determine no cleanup was necessary.
“DTSC’s practice of mixing sample measurements and ‘averaging’ the result needs to be reviewed to determine whether this is a sound way to protect public health, or an excuse to save companies money and justify inaction on cleanups at sites that are linked to illnesses in surrounding communities,” Patchett wrote.
It is indeed time for a review of all the cases in which Bosan or anyone else at the DTSC determined no action was necessary. It is time to re-assess DTSC scientific methods. Why not clean up spots where measurements of arsenic or lead are sky high instead of “averaging”? It is time to assess whether inaction is motivated by strained state budgets, fear of corporate lawsuits, prejudiced attitudes, or all of the above.  
If the DTSC won't undertake this, the Independent Review Panel created to reform the dysfunctional agency should insist. Releasing thousands of unsorted emails late on a Friday night to ensure no journalist wades through to find the offensive material is a red herring. The issue is how and whether a disrespectful, callous, racist, sexist, and crude mentality leads to toxic injustice.

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