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“Toxic City”: The award winning documentary on pollution in North Birmingham

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From left: Outreach director of Gasp, Kirsten Bryant; Interim Director of BPL Sandi Lee; and executive director of Gasp, Michael Hansen. (Provided photo)

Special to The Times

From left: Outreach director of Gasp, Kirsten Bryant; Interim Director of BPL Sandi Lee; and executive director of Gasp, Michael Hansen. (Provided photo)
From left: Outreach director of Gasp, Kirsten Bryant; Interim Director of BPL Sandi Lee; and executive director of Gasp, Michael Hansen. (Provided photo)

Gasp, a Birmingham-based health advocacy nonprofit, this week presented the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) 19 DVD copies of “Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret,” an award-winning documentary about the impact industrial pollution has on area citizens.

Gasp produced “Toxic City” in 2014 to shine light on the impact hazardous industrial pollution has on residents in Collegeville and other communities in the northern part of the city and Tarrant. The 26-minute documentary explores how the issue arose as well as possible solutions to the problem. A copy will be at each of the 19 BPL locations.

Air pollution is the world’s single greatest environmental health risk factor for premature death, killing more than 5.5 million people a year, according to Michael Hansen, executive director of Gasp.

A recent study named Alabama’s air quality as fifth-worst in the nation. According to Gasp, communities of color and lower incomes are disproportionately affected by pollution.

Hansen hopes the donation will help educate more citizens of Birmingham about the dangers of industrial pollution.

“Educators have been using these DVDs since 2014 to teach students about health, environmental justice, the legacy of toxic pollution, and the lingering effects of segregation,” Hansen said. “Now the film will be accessible to everyone through the 19 branches of the Birmingham Public Library.”

Sandi Lee, interim director of BPL, said the 19 libraries in the system are appreciative of the DVD donations.

Founded in 2009 as Alabama First, the organization changed its name to Gasp in 2010 to honor the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, a group formed in 1970 by young activists, students, public health professionals, elected officials, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham to bring attention to Birmingham’s air pollution problems that created a public health crisis.

The “Toxic City” donation is the third major DVD gift to BPL in 2016. In early December, the Southern Environmental Law Center and Black Warrior Riverkeeper donated to BPL 19 copies of the 2016 version of “Southern Exposure,” a documentary educating the public about Alabama’s natural resources. In July, Jenna Roberts of Decatur gave BPL five books and 19 DVD copies of “Cowspiracy,” an acclaimed documentary promoting a vegan lifestyle.