Does a ‘Good Neighbor’ put poison in our air?

Sims Metal puts unknown quantities of toxic materials into Pilsen’s air.

Sims Metal recently sent mailings to everyone in Pilsen claiming to have been a “good neighbor” for 30 years. However, the facts show that Sims Metal is actually a bad neighbor.

Sims Metal and Government Agencies Refuse Proper Pollution Testing

Sims metal buys junk cars and scrap metal and shreds it into tiny pieces. This process emits tiny particles of metals into the air. There is no good data on how much or what types of particles it is emitting. In 2019, Sims conducted an air emissions test which was inaccurate and showed only about half the rate of their real emissions. But this test did show that they were emitting more than the metal shredder in Lincoln Park that was forced to shut down in 2020. The EPA has recently installed some more monitors around the facility, but they are not sensitive enough to record the actual amounts of metal particles that Sims is emitting.

Given the variety of materials that Sims shreds, it is inevitable that some amount of lead, manganese, nickel, chromium, and other toxic metals get into the air. We just don’t know what quantity. There is no safe level of lead. Any quantity causes negative health effects, including asthma and cancer, in a certain percentage of the population.

The prevailing wind in Pilsen comes from the southwest. This means that a lot of the material that Sims puts into the air blows in the direction of Benito Juarez high school and Perez elementary school. Some of it blows in the direction of Whittier elementary school. Sims adds to the environmental hazards that exist in Pilsen.

What should be done?

In Pilsen many industrial facilities have subjected the community to pollution for decades. PERRO feels that any additional pollution burden is unacceptable. Sims should stop shredding metal at its facility if it can not eliminate all emissions from its facility.

In addition the community needs to know the actual amounts of heavy metals and volatile organic compounds that Sims is currently emitting. The sensors that are installed at Sims are not adequate and need to be replaced with more sensitive and accurate data monitors.