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Justin Nobel and Petroleum-238

PSR PA recently hosted the Philadelphia launch and discussion of science journalist Justin Nobel's new book Petroleum-238 at The Wooden Shoe, a local bookstore. Petroleum-238 reveals the story of a radioactive waste crisis caused by the fossil fuel industry. PSR PA Executive Director Tonyehn Verkitus moderated the discussion, which also featured former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection press secretary Jamar Thrasher.

Nobel told the crowd that the fossil fuel industry knowingly creates millions of gallons of radioactive waste every year - enough barrels to go to the moon and back 28 times - but wants to avoid the high expense of proper disposal. Instead, companies employ vulnerable recent ex-inmates and drug users to do clean up. These workers, who are exposed to radiation levels hundreds and sometimes thousands of times higher than levels accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency, are not told that the sludge covering their clothes and boots is radioactive.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has taken little action to protect these workers, even exempting the fossil fuel industry from many worker protections.

Companies move the radioactive waste throughout the United States in trucks with no hazardous material warnings, employing truckers who are unaware of the danger to their health.

“We’re learning that these sites can contain elevated levels of radioactivity. It may also be concentrated at oilfield waste treatment centers, injection wells, landfills, pipelines and compressor stations—they’re all likely unsafe for human activity.  Workers need to be protected, and right now, obviously they are not,” said Dr. Pouné Saberi, a PSR PA board member who is an occupational and environmental medicine physician.

Former PA DEP press secretary Thrasher spoke about the pressures of wanting to be candid with the public about environmental hazards and being moved by his faith to share accurate, clear facts with reporters. About the DEP, he said, "Their goal was not the same as my goal."

"For decades, this industry has valued income over the well-being of its workers and the vitality of communities.  Justin's book is a must read for healthcare professionals and anyone who claims to be a public servant," said PSRPA Executive Director Tonyehn Verkitus.

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