Parts Per Million - William Bay

Parts Per Million

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Unacceptable

Irreducible is the word for today
Plastic compounds and nuclear waste,
What the hell is the matter with the people on this planet?
Have we all gone insane?
The stigma of industrial progress
Killing us over and over again

One part per trillion – Unacceptable!
One part per billion – Unacceptable!
One part per million – Unacceptable!

This mammoth pogrom
Set upon us, courtesy of the U.S.A

Inexcusable are the men before our time
I’d like to kick their ass for what they left behind,
Cancer-causing chemicals
Ozone-depleting aerosols
We’re all going to fry
So put your head between your legs and
Kiss your ass goodbye

One part per trillion – Unacceptable!
One part per billion – Unacceptable!
One part per million – Unacceptable!

~Bad Religion

If you were a surfer in Southern California in the Nineties, punk rock was part of the soundtrack of your youth. It could be heard on almost any surf flick you turned on for your pre-sesh amp. It was the peak of the Momentum Generation, and Taylor Steele’s movies introduced the world to Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, and that tight knit crew of surfers that would go on to dominate professional surfing, all to the backdrop of Bad Religion songs like “Walk Away,” “Quality or Quantity,” and “Unacceptable,” a hard edged protest against the destruction of our environment in the name of progress.

If you were a surfer in Imperial Beach in the Nineties, you or one of your friends invariably got sick. Hepatitis, ear infections, acute gastroenteritis were the common ones. Most of us knew to stay out of the water after a rain, and when the Tijuana River Mouth was flowing. Brown and stinky water was a strong deterrent. But a solid Northwest swell, with no one out was also tempting enough to risk it. The joke in IB was that we had developed superior immune systems to deal. We were the modern day Achilles, dipped into a River Styx of raw sewage.

When NAFTA opened the door for US businesses to operate in Mexico, many jumped at the chance to take advantage of the cheap labor, and the lack of EPA regulations. As a result, the runoff from Tijuana, which up to then was mostly untreated sewage, began to include volatile chemicals and heavy metals. Today, with the population growth of Tijuana, the toxic cross-border flows don’t just happen during winter storms, but have become a daily occurrence.

Not one of the responsible agencies were willing to report what was in the water for fear of the responsibility of dealing with it. The EPA and the International Boundary Water Commission were content with allowing the toxic soup of effluent and chemicals to cross into the United States, where beach cities like Imperial Beach and Coronado would be forced to issue beach closures.

Border Patrol Agents, working in the Tijuana River have become increasingly sick, and developing skin conditions while in contact with water and mud. As a result, in 2018 the Border Patrol conducted a six month water quality study [Link]. The findings were far worse than anyone had imagined.

The photos in this project were all taken at the mouth of the Tijuana River, where polluted river water spills into the Pacific Ocean. As the tide rises and falls, river mixes with ocean, and ocean mixes with river. Beautiful patterns, ripples, shapes, and textures emerge in the confluence. Despite the beauty, the water is full of illness, infection, and death. Each photo in this project was selected to represent one of the 28 contaminates found in the Border Patrol report. With each photo, you’ll find the name of the contaminate, the parts per million, health consequences, and how many times above the EPA acceptable level has been found in each.
Each one Unacceptable.

~William Bay

Benzidine

0.049 Parts Per Million | 445,000x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

If it comes in contact with your skin it may cause a skin allergy. Liver, kidney, immune, and neurological effects have been observed in laboratory animals given relatively high amounts of benzidine. We do not know if these effects would also occur in humans. It is known that long term occupational exposure to benzidine can increase the risk of developing cancer in people. The main type of cancer found in workers is cancer of the urinary bladder. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the EPA have determined that benzidine is a human carcinogen. In addition, dyes made from benzidine, such as Direct Blue 6, Direct Black 38, and Direct Brown 95, have been shown to cause cancer in humans. The DHHS has determined that Direct Blue 6 and Direct Black 38 cause cancer in animals and WHO determined that Direct Blue 6, Direct Black 38, and Direct Brown 95 cause cancer in animals.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Benzidine]

Enterococcus

929,091 MPN | 28,000x SD Water Standards | Unacceptable

Enterococci are indicators of the presence of fecal material in water and, therefore, of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. These pathogens can sicken swimmers and others who use rivers and streams for recreation or eat raw shellfish or fish. Other potential health effects can include diseases of the skin, eyes, ears and respiratory tract. Eating fish or shellfish harvested from waters with fecal contamination can also result in human illness.

[EPA | Enterococcus]

E. Coli

2,420,000 MPN | 12,400x SD Water Standards | Unacceptable

The presence of E. coli is used as an indicator to monitor the possible presence of other more harmful microbes, such as Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Shigella, and norovirus. Diseases acquired from contact with contaminated water can cause gastrointestinal illness, skin, ear, respiratory, eye, neurologic, and wound infections. The most commonly reported symptoms are stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever.

[The Water Project | E. Coli]

Fecal Coliform

2,420,000 MPN | 2,420x SD Water Standards | Unacceptable

Fecal coliforms or E. Coli, are a particular type of coliform bacteria. Their presence in drinking water is more serious than other coliform bacteria because they are disease-causing, and also indicate that drinking water has been contaminated by sewage or animal wastes that contain other disease causing microorganisms. This type of contamination can cause severe diarrhea, cramps, and nausea. Because fecal coliform contamination is more severe than contamination by other types of coliform bacteria, EPA sets an acute standard indicating that for water to be considered safe it must be free of all fecal coliform.

[Environmental Working Group | Fecal Coliform]

Hexavalent Chromium

0.040 Parts Per Million | 1,100x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Breathing high levels of chromium(VI) can cause irritation to the lining of the nose, nose ulcers, runny nose, and breathing problems, such as asthma, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing. The concentrations of chromium in air that can cause these effects may be different for different types of chromium compounds, with effects occurring at much lower concentrations for chromium(VI) compared to chromium(III). The main health problems seen in animals following ingestion of chromium(VI) compounds are irritation and ulcers in the stomach and small intestine and anemia. Chromium(III) compounds are much less toxic and do not appear to cause these problems. Sperm damage and damage to the male reproductive system have also been seen in laboratory animals exposed to chromium(VI). Skin contact with certain chromium(VI) compounds can cause skin ulcers. Some people are extremely sensitive tochromium(VI) or chromium(III). Allergic reactions consisting of severe redness and swelling of the skin have been noted.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Chromium]

Arsenic

0.037 Parts Per Million | 712x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Ingesting very high levels of arsenic can result in death. Exposure to lower levels can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet. Ingesting or breathing low levels of inorganic arsenic for a long time can cause a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles, and torso. Skin contact with inorganic arsenic may cause redness and swelling.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Arsenic]

Mecoprop (MCPP)

0.77 Parts Per Million | 48x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Mecoprop is harmful if swallowed and is toxic if inhaled. Mecoprop is very toxic to aquatic life, with long-lasting effects. Mecoprop can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. If inhaled, it may cause a burning sensation in the nasopharynx and chest, coughing, and/or dizziness. Mecoprop can also cause headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Mecoprop may also cause confusion and bizarre or aggressive behavior along with kidney failure and increased heart rate. Mecoprop can also cause metabolic acidosis resulting in a peculiar breath odor. A study of people employed in the manufacture of phenoxy herbicides including mecoprop showed an association between these herbicides and cancer of soft tissues and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

[Naturalpedia | Mecoprop]

MCPA

0.240 Parts Per Million | 32x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

MCPA is a systemic phenoxy herbicide used to control annual and perennial weeds (including thistle and dock) in cereals, grasslands, trees and turf. Symptoms in humans from acute toxic exposure include slurred speech, twitching, jerking and spasms, drooling, low blood pressure, and unconsciousness.

[Cornell Extension Toxicology Network | MCPA]

Bromodichloromethane

0.0023 Parts Per Million | 17.7x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

The effects of BDCM depend on how much is taken into the body. In animals, the main effect of eating or drinking large amounts of BDCM is injury to the liver and kidneys. These effects can occur within a short time after exposure. High levels can also cause effects on the brain, leading to incoordination and sleepiness. There is some evidence that BDCM can be toxic to developing fetuses, but this has not been well-studied. Studies in animals show that intake of BDCM for several years in food or water can lead to cancer of the liver, kidney and intestines. Although effects of BDCM have not been reported in humans, effects would probably occur if enough BDCM were taken into the body.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Bromodichloromethane]

Aldrin

0.000014 Parts Per Million | 15x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

People who intentionally or accidentally ingested large amounts of aldrin or dieldrin suffered convulsions and some died. Health effects may also occur after a longer period of exposure to smaller amounts because these chemicals build up in the body. Some workers exposed to moderate levels in the air for a long time had headaches, dizziness, irritability, vomiting, and uncontrolled muscle movements. Workers removed from the source of exposure rapidly recovered from most of these effects. Animals exposed to high amounts of aldrin or dieldrin also had nervous system effects. In animals, oral exposure to lower levels for a long period also affected the liver and decreased their ability to fight infections.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Aldrin]

1,4-Dichlorobenzene

0.0053 Parts Per Million | 11x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Inhaling the vapor or dusts of 1,2-dichlorobenzene and 1,4- dichlorobenzene at very high concentrations could be very irritating to your eyes and nose and cause burning and tearing of the eyes, coughing, difficult breathing, and an upset stomach. Dizziness, headaches, and liver problems have also been observed in people exposed to very high levels of 1,4-dichlorobenzene. There is limited evidence that inhaling 1,4-dichlorobenzene may decrease lung function. People who have eaten 1,4-dichlorobenzene products regularly for long periods (months to years) developed skin blotches and anemia. 1,4-Dichlorobenzene might cause a burning feeling in your skin if you hold mothballs or toilet-deodorizer blocks against your skin for a long time. Breathing or eating any of the dichlorobenzenes caused harmful effects in the liver of laboratory animals. Animal studies also found that 1,2- and 1,4-dichlorobenzene caused effects in the kidneys and blood, and that 1,3-dichlorobenzene caused thyroid and pituitary effects.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Dichlorobenzenes]

Chloroform

0.0022 Parts Per Million | 10x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Breathing about 900 parts of chloroform per million parts air (900 ppm) for a short time can cause dizziness, fatigue, and headache. Breathing air, eating food, or drinking water containing high levels of chloroform for long periods of time may damage your liver and kidneys. Large amounts of chloroform can cause sores when chloroform touches your skin. It isn't known whether chloroform causes reproductive effects or birth defects in people. Animal studies have shown that miscarriages occurred in rats and mice that breathed air containing 30 to 300 ppm chloroform during pregnancy and also in rats that ate chloroform during pregnancy. Offspring of rats and mice that breathed chloroform during pregnancy had birth defects. Abnormal sperm were found in mice that breathed air containing 400 ppm chloroform for a few days.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Chloroform]

Manganese

3.9 Parts Per Million | 9x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

The most common health problems in workers exposed to high levels of manganese involve the nervous system. These health effects include behavioral changes and other nervous system effects, which include movements that may become slow and clumsy. This combination of symptoms when sufficiently severe is referred to as "manganism". Other less severe nervous system effects such as slowed hand movements have been observed in some workers exposed to lower concentrations in the work place.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Manganese]

Iron

110 Parts Per Million | 7.8x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Although iron is an essential mineral, diseases of aging such as Alzheimer’s disease, other neurodegenerative diseases, arteriosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and others have been linked to excess iron intake. Iron is an essential dietary mineral for fish and other animals as it is for humans. Iron toxicity has been observed in certain fish species at concentrations in excess of 1,380 mg iron/kg in their diet. Iron can also cause algae blooms, which create biological oxygen demand can kill fish, smother aquatic plants and produce potent neurotoxins.

[StormwateRX | Iron]

Uranium

0.030 Parts Per Million | 7.5x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Natural uranium and depleted uranium have the identical chemical effect on your body. Kidney damage has been seen in humans and animals after inhaling or ingesting uranium compounds. However, kidney damage has not been consistently found in soldiers who have had uranium metal fragments in their bodies for several years. Ingesting water-soluble uranium compounds will result in kidney effects at lower doses than following exposure to insoluble uranium compounds. Studies in animals have shown that inhalation exposure to insoluble uranium compounds can result in lung damage. In male rats and mice, exposure to uranium has been shown to decrease fertility. Uranium compounds on the skin caused skin irritation and mild skin damage in animals. Health effects of natural and depleted uranium are due to chemical effects and not to radiation.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Uranium]

Cobalt

0.045 Parts Per Million | 7.5x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Exposure to high levels of cobalt can result in lung and heart effects and dermatitis. Liver and kidney effects have also been observed in animals exposed to high levels of cobalt. Exposure to large amounts of radiation from radioactive cobalt can damage cells in your body from the radiation. You might also experience acute radiation syndrome that includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bleeding, coma, and even death. This would be a rare event.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Cobalt]

1,2-Diphenylhydrazine

0.00054 Parts Per Million | 6.9x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Animal studies indicate that ingesting large amounts of 1,2-diphenylhydrazine can cause death. Ingesting smaller amounts over a long period can cause damage to the lungs, digestive tract (stomach and intestines), and liver, and can cause death. We do not know if it can cause birth defects or affect reproduction.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | 1,2-Diphenylhydrazine]

Dibromochloromethane

0.005 Parts Per Million | 5.75x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Eating or breathing a large amount of bromoform slows down the normal brain activities and causes sleepiness; this tends to go away within a day. Exposure to very high amounts may cause unconsciousness and even death. No studies are available about health effects in people exposed to dibromochloromethane. Animals exposed to high amounts of bromoform or dibromochloromethane developed liver and kidney injuries. Exposure to low levels of bromoform or dibromochloromethane do not appear to seriously affect the brain, liver, or kidneys. We do not know if bromoform or dibromochloromethane affect fertility in humans, but studies in animals suggest that the risk of doing so is low.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Dibromochloromethane]

Lead

0.075 Parts Per Million | 5x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

The effects of lead are the same whether it enters the body through breathing or swallowing. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. The main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system, both in adults and children. Long-term exposure of adults can result in decreased performance in some tests that measure functions of the nervous system. It may also cause weakness in fingers, wrists, or ankles. Lead exposure also causes small increases in blood pressure, particularly in middle-aged and older people and can cause anemia. Exposure to high lead levels can severely damage the brain and kidneys in adults or children and ultimately cause death. In pregnant women, high levels of exposure to lead may cause miscarriage. Highlevel exposure in men can damage the organs responsible for sperm production.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Lead]

Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) Pthalate

0.025 Parts Per Million | 4.5x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Harmful effects in animals generally occurred only with high amounts of DEHP or with prolonged exposures. Moreover, absorption and breakdown of DEHP in humans is different than in rats or mice, so the effects seen in rats and mice may not occur in humans. Rats that breathed DEHP in the air showed no serious harmful effects. Their lifespan and ability to reproduce were not affected. Brief oral exposure to very high levels of DEHP damaged sperm in mice. Although the effect reversed when exposure ceased, sexual maturity was delayed in the animals. High amounts of DEHP damaged the liver of rats and mice. Whether or not DEHP contributes to human kidney damage is unclear.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate]

Bromoform

0.014 Parts Per Million | 4.25x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Eating or breathing a large amount of bromoform slows down the normal brain activities and causes sleepiness; this tends to go away within a day. Exposure to very high amounts may cause unconsciousness and even death. No studies are available about health effects in people exposed to dibromochloromethane. Animals exposed to high amounts of bromoform or dibromochloromethane developed liver and kidney injuries. Exposure to low levels of bromoform or dibromochloromethane do not appear to seriously affect the brain, liver, or kidneys. We do not know if bromoform or dibromochloromethane affect fertility in humans, but studies in animals suggest that the risk of doing so is low.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Bromoform]

Aluminum

72 Parts Per Million | 3.6x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Some people with kidney disease store a lot of aluminum in their bodies and sometimes develop bone or brain diseases which may be caused by the excess aluminum. Some studies show that people exposed to high levels of aluminum may develop Alzheimer's disease.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Aluminum]

Vanadium

0.310 Parts Per Million | 3.6x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Exposure to high levels of vanadium pentoxide in air can result in lung damage. Nausea, mild diarrhea, and stomach cramps have been reported in people who have been exposed to some vanadium compounds. A number of effects have been found in animals ingesting vanadium compounds including decreases in the number of red blood cells, increased blood pressure, and mild neurological effects. The amounts of vanadium given in these animal studies that resulted in harmful effects are much higher than those likely to occur in the environment.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Vanadium]

Cyanide

0.054 Parts Per Million | 3.6x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Some of the first indications of cyanide poisoning are rapid, deep breathing and shortness of breath, followed by convulsions (seizures) and loss of consciousness. These symptoms can occur rapidly, depending on the amount eaten. The health effects of large amounts of cyanide are similar, whether you eat, drink, or breathe it; cyanide uptake into the body through the skin is slower than these other means of exposure. Skin contact with hydrogen cyanide or cyanide salts can irritate and produce sores.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Cyanide]

Trichloroethene

0.0014 Parts Per Million | 2.85x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Trichloroethylene was once used as an anesthetic for surgery. People who are overexposed to moderate amounts of trichloroethylene may experience headaches, dizziness, and sleepiness; large amounts of trichloroethylene may cause coma and even death. Some people who breathe high levels of trichloroethylene may develop damage to some of the nerves in the face. Other effects seen in people exposed to high levels of trichloroethylene include evidence of nervous system effects related to hearing, seeing, and balance, changes in the rhythm of the heartbeat, liver damage, and evidence of kidney damage. Some people who get concentrated solutions of trichloroethylene on their skin develop rashes. Relatively short-term exposure of animals to trichloroethylene resulted in harmful effects on the nervous system, liver, respiratory system, kidneys, blood, immune system, heart, and body weight.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Trichloroethylene]

Antimony

0.022 Parts Per Million | 2.8x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Breathing high levels for a long time can irritate your eyes and lungs and can cause heart and lung problems, stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach ulcers. In short-term studies, animals that breathed very high levels of antimony died. Animals that breathed high levels had lung, heart, liver, and kidney damage. In long-term studies, animals that breathed very low levels of antimony had eye irritation, hair loss, lung damage, and heart problems. Problems with fertility were also noted. In animal studies, problems with fertility have been seen when rats breathed very high levels of antimony for a few months. Ingesting large doses of antimony can cause vomiting. We don't know what other effects may be caused by ingesting it. Long-term animal studies have reported liver damage and blood changes when animals ingested antimony. Antimony can irritate the skin if it is left on it.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Antimony]

DDT

0.0027 Parts Per Million | 1.2x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

DDT affects the nervous system. People who accidentally swallowed large amounts of DDT became excitable and had tremors and seizures. These effects went away after the exposure stopped. No effects were seen in people who took small daily doses of DDT by capsule for 18 months. A study in humans showed that women who had high amounts of a form of DDE in their breast milk were unable to breast feed their babies for as long as women who had little DDE in the breast milk. Another study in humans showed that women who had high amounts of DDE in breast milk had an increased chance of having premature babies. In animals, short-term exposure to large amounts of DDT in food affected the nervous system, while long-term exposure to smaller amounts affected the liver. Also in animals, short-term oral exposure to small amounts of DDT or its breakdown products may also have harmful effects on reproduction.

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | DDT]

Chromium

0.110 Parts Per Million | 1.1x EPA Standard | Unacceptable

Breathing high levels of chromium(VI) can cause irritation to the lining of the nose, nose ulcers, runny nose, and breathing problems, such as asthma, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing. The concentrations of chromium in air that can cause these effects may be different for different types of chromium compounds, with effects occurring at much lower concentrations for chromium(VI) compared to chromium(III). The main health problems seen in animals following ingestion of chromium(VI) compounds are irritation and ulcers in the stomach and small intestine and anemia. Chromium(III) compounds are much less toxic and do not appear to cause these problems. Sperm damage and damage to the male reproductive system have also been seen in laboratory animals exposed to chromium(VI).

[CDC - Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry | Chromium]

How Can You Help

If, like me, you found this shocking and unacceptable, I highly encourage you to get involved and make a difference. It may seem like an overwhelming problem, but even small actions add up. I’ve listed a few things below that you can do to help solve this problem.

  • Share this project to people you know. If it affected you, it will have the same effect on others.
  • Help sponsor this project! In order to turn this into a traveling exhibition, I need to raise about $2,600 for printing and framing costs.
  • Get involved with Surfrider San Diego. They are currently suing the IBWC for violating the Clean Water Act. And they remain committed to ensuring clean water in San Diego.
  • Raise awareness with other organizations. Green Peace, Sierra Club, The Nature Conservancy, etc. have not gotten involved in this issue. If you have connections with these or other environmental organizations, please make them aware of this, and encourage them to join the fight.
  • Contact your representatives. This issue needs the support of our elected officials. Local, State, and Federal level must support solving this crisis.
  • Contact media. The more press this issue gets, the more pressure we can apply on the government to resolve this.

And these tips apply to both sides of the border. These chemicals and heavy metals affect the health of people on BOTH sides of the border. We must fight for the people in Tijuana, most of whom are unaware of this.

Sponsors

The following people have graciously contributed to esuring this project comes to life in an exhibition.
If you would like to contribute as well, you can do so here.

  • Gwyn Giese
  • Josh Hill