Decades old railway emitting harmful toxins, residents ask for more thorough studies

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Kansas City, Kan., neighbors said a decades old railway is emitting harmful toxins into the air.

A train passes through the Argentine Railway nearly every two minutes.

"We can smell the diesel blowing into the neighborhood," Denny Larson, who works for the environmental advocacy group, Global Community Monitor, said.

That diesel is what residents like Leticia Decaigny breathe in every day.

"You just get used to it and it's something that you don't realize what an issue it is until you're educated about how diesel affects your health," she said.

Decaigny used a portable device to measure the air quality around the railway during the past year.

She and Larson gathered the amount of diesel soot that's floating in the air.

The results were alarming to Decaigny, especially when health is a big concern after her son died from brain cancer two years ago.

"So that's why I'm more passionate about it," she said.

Out of the 20 homes, more than half showed an amount of diesel air nearly two times higher than what is considered safe.

One home had levels that Larson said are high enough for a person to have a heart attack just three days after being exposed.

"So that's the reason for concern," he said.

Larson wants BNSF, the company that runs the railway, to conduct a more thorough study that may lead to more environmentally friendly standards.

A representative from BNSF said they've never been contacted by the group about the study or the methods they're using to conduct their research.

BNSF said, via email:

"For the past six years BNSF has also used carbon estimators to provide our customers with reports of their total rail carbon footprint. BNSF trains enable our customers to offset their CO2 emissions by over 30 million metric tons annually. That is equivalent to eliminating 6 million vehicles from our nation’s highways every year."

Larson isn't convinced.

"I think there's a lot more work to be done," he said.

Both he and Decaigny shared the results with as many neighbors as possible during a community meeting on Tuesday.

The results were surprising to many.

"I have a one year old so you know it's certainly something to think about," Angela Robinson Markley, who represents the district and attended the meeting, said.  

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