1968: Lead Emissions Ordinance Passed

Following the arrival of the RSR Smelter Plant, West Dallas residents began to notice the emissions from the plant. After Dallas was annexed in 1954, houses were destroyed to try and help West Dallas look less like a “slum.” In order to help the neighborhood look better, the DHA created public housing projects (Newton, 2009, p. 6).

The RSR plant, located at the intersection between Singleton Boulevard and Westmoreland Road, was supposed to get rid of batteries and scrap metal, but instead they poisoned a whole community, mainly children. Once the wind picked up, it would spread the lead anywhere eventually releasing 269 tons of lead per year (Newton, 2009, p. 6). In addition to spreading through the air, the scrap metal and batteries that were put in landfills leached into the groundwater and soil. When children would play in their yards, lead would get on their hands and end up in their mouths, leading to lead poisoning (Wigglesworth, 2012).

The RSR Smelter Plant in West Dallas.

After the 1968 Lead Emission Ordinance, residents thought the problem was under control, but the local government did not strictly enforce the ordinance. This lead to elevate lead levels in children’s blood throughout the next 15 years until RSR shut down. One study found that the blood lead levels in West Dallas children were 36% higher than children outside West Dallas (Newton, 2009, p. 6). Research found that elevated lead levels can have severe cognitive impacts, causing lower IQ scores, lower academic achievement, and shorter attention spans. Additionally, once it has an impact on the body, it doesn’t go away, leading to lifelong health concerns for West Dallas residents (Wigglesworth, 2012).

In 1974, RSR was forced to pay fines to the city of Dallas for violating the lead emissions ordinance. In total, they paid $35,000 in fines and this was the first time that the city of Dallas acknowledged that RSR was violating the emissions policies. RSR continued to operate for another ten years until 1984 and sparked nationwide controversy for the environmental injustice caused by the harmful emissions (Stone, 2015).

If you would like to skip ahead on the timeline to topics related to RSR Smelter’s environmental injustice, click on the topics below:

After sanctions and city ordinances, RSR Smelter was still allowing their pollutants to harm the residents of West Dallas, including children:
After years of injustice, RSR’s pollution was seen on the national stage, leading the EPA to place West Dallas on the Superfund List for cleanup:


Newton, D. E. (2009). Environmental Justice: A Reference Handbook, 2nd Edition: A Reference Handbook, Second Edition. ABC-CLIO.

Stone, R. (2015, November 2). City to move West Dallas concrete plant next to Superfund site, school. Oak Cliff. https://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2015/11/city-to-move-west-dallas-concrete-plant-next-to-superfund-site/

Wigglesworth, V. (2012, December 15). The Burden of Lead: West Dallas deals with contamination decades later. Dallas News. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/2012/12/15/the-burden-of-lead-west-dallas-deals-with-contamination-decades-later/