Lawsuit by a father in Indiana targets polluters

Mar 26, 2009 By CHARLES WILSON , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Ron Kurth, who grew up in Gary and worked in the steel mills, raised his family in the region near the outskirts of Chicago. He always wondered about the smoke and smog that overcast the Lake Michigan shoreline.

"It's just a horrible atmosphere," he said.

Kurth, who has a 16-year-old daughter attending school in the city of Crown Point, decided someone ought to do something about the pollution. On Wednesday, he did.

He filed a lawsuit on behalf of his daughter against 11 northwest Indiana industries, including U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, claiming the they emit from their smokestacks endangers the long-term health of Lake County children. The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of thousands of the county's schoolchildren.

The complaint cites a study that appeared in USA Today earlier this year that reported children in the heavily industrialized county are exposed to higher levels of than elsewhere in the United States, based on EPA data on air quality outside 127,800 schools nationwide.

Four schools in East Chicago - Abraham Lincoln , Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, East Chicago Lighthouse, and Eugene Field Elementary School - ranked in the study's first percentile, among the most polluted air.

The suit contends that children in the region are more likely to develop cancer or other long-term illnesses that can be caused by exposure to cadmium, lead and other airborne toxins found in the area.

"A child, running and playing can take in as much as 50 percent more air through their lungs than an adult doing the same activity," lead attorney Steve Berman of Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro said in a statement. "We have no way of knowing the long-term effects of these contaminants.

"Air they breathe today could cause asthma or lung cancer 10 years down the line."

The suit seeks unspecified damages and asks the court to order a medical monitoring program to help protect children's health at the defendants' expense.

Attorney Beth A. Fegan said the 11 defendants were selected based on the study by USA Today and three universities and on Environmental Protection Agency reports.

U.S. Steel spokeswoman Erin DiPietro said the company had not been served with any court papers and does not comment on pending litigation. The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment Wednesday from an ArcelorMittal spokesman.

Kurth, who retired from the Lake County Police Department after 33 years, has two sons and another daughter who attended local schools. He said he grew tired after seeing and reading about pollution for years with no one seeming to do anything.

"You look at all this smoke and smog," he said in a phone interview, "and it could be such a beautiful area and yet we're hampered by this stuff."

---

On The Net:

USA Today pollution study: http://content.usatoday.com/news/nation/environment/smokestack/index

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Pact with devil? California farmers use oil firms' water

Related Stories

Lawsuit claims school bus pollution

May 03, 2006

Two environmental groups filed a lawsuit this week in San Francisco, claiming some school buses fill with cancer-causing levels of diesel exhaust fumes.

Steubenville: EPA test city

Sep 27, 2006

Steubenville, Ohio, once known for having the most polluted air in the United States, is now known for its contributions in controlling air pollution.

Largest air pollution study is released

Mar 08, 2006

A study published Wednesday suggests fine particulate air pollution spikes increase cardiovascular and respiratory hospitalizations across the United States.

Sydney reports high levels of pollution

Feb 23, 2006

The city of Sydney, Australia, is experiencing a smog-filed summer season as air pollution levels double and officials have issued 14 health warnings.

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Jul 03, 2015

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

Jul 03, 2015

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

Jul 03, 2015

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

Jul 02, 2015

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.