NOVEMBER 11, 2021

SANTA ANA, Calif. —More than 100 people gathered in Delhi Park on Wednesday to hear city leaders, Kingspan factory workers, faith leaders and community and environmental activists address growing concerns about the labor and environmental track record of Kingspan, a global “green” building materials maker that manufactures skylights in the Delhi neighborhood.

Santa Ana Mayor Vicente Sarmiento addressed the crowd and called on Kingspan to do to better: “We’re taking the issues the workers have documented very seriously and we expect Kingspan to clean up its act — in the workplace and the community,” said Sarmiento. “This isn’t an anti-business effort… It’s a matter of compliance. It’s a matter of creating a safe workspace. It’s a matter of making sure that neighborhoods aren’t impacted because of poor practices.”

Kingspan workers — who weld, paint, make fiberglass, work with plastics and assemble skylights — report unsafe working conditions, including inadequate ventilation, and are concerned for their own health and for the possible impact on the community.

“We knew, we could feel the change in air going outside to inside the building,” said Kingspan welder Lucas Hernandez. “They never took our concerns seriously. But now we have evidence, and it’s time for them to clean up.”

Kingspan workers filed complaints with Cal/OSHA on October 15, and with the State Water Resources Board/CalEPA on October 19, alleging violations of worker safety and clean water laws. The company’s own records show that it has exceeded allowable discharge levels for zinc in stormwater runoff by almost 7 times in 2020-2021 and over 13 times in 2019-2020. The complaint to CalEPA includes allegations that Kingspan instructed a worker to use a leaf blower to blow dust and debris, rather than vacuuming it up per the terms of its pollution prevention plan filed with the state, and as agreed to by the company in a court-ordered consent decree.

Also present at the event was UC Irvine professor and air pollution scientist Dr. Shahir Masri, who teamed up with Kingspan workers to document the levels of air pollution inside their factory over a three-day period in August 2021.

“As an air pollution scientist,” said Dr, Masri, “it was surprising to observe air pollution concentrations inside the Kingspan facility that were higher than what I measured during the wildfire events that affected Santa Ana last year.”

Dr. Masri’s analysis found that the average concentration of fine airborne particulate matter (PM 2.5) inside the Kingspan facility was six to seven times higher than average outdoor levels (as compared to air pollution due to wildfire smoke, which often results in a 2- to 4-fold increase in PM 2.5). Researchers estimate that PM 2.5 accounts for between 85,000 and 200,000 premature deaths each year. The Kingspan employees’ air monitoring was one of the first attempts by workers themselves to measure air quality levels inside a factory.

Kingspan prides itself on its “Planet Passionate” programs designed to “protect the natural environment,” and is headquartered in Ireland, with 166 factories around the world and 15,500 employees. It had global sales of $5.5 billion in 2020. The company’s profit has increased every year since 2008, reaching $600 million in trading profit in 2020 despite COVID-19.