Houston Area Metal Recyclers: A Rapidly Growing Industry

By Bel Vasquez, Community Outreach Director

Metal recycling is a growing industry in Houston, and many of these facilities are located in predominantly poor neighborhoods. Some sit right across the street or next door to homes in these communities. Imagine living near a Metal Recycling facility, with many trucks hauling scrap metal passing by and then hearing the loud pounding sounds of metal being crushed while sending dust containing potential hazardous particles into the air.

It is not always the big chemical plants and refineries that we see on the side of the freeway that are causing air pollution in our communities, but the smaller, yet growing industry of metal recyclers. Metal recyclers are not regulated; should they be?  There is limited information on the emissions from these facilities, yet that may soon change.

Due to many complaints, mostly about smoke and dust, made to the city of Houston by residents in neighborhoods with a nearby metal recycler, an air monitoring surveillance was conducted. The surveillance was conducted by Houston Department of Health and Human Services, using a mobile ambient air monitoring laboratory (MAAML). The surveillance brought in the attention of the metal recyclers task force who has agreed to participate in any upcoming air emissions studies in hopes tackling any potential health risk with solutions. There are many benefits to metal recycling however those benefits should not be at the expense of human health.