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Minnesota is close to banning trichloroethylene (TCE) and becoming the first state to protect citizens from this carcinogen that has been released into the environment throughout the state in excessive levels.

The most recent TCE exposure was announced February. The manufacturer Water Gremlin, which makes fishing sinkers and electrical contacts for batteries, exposed White Bear-area citizens to excessive levels of the compound for 17 years. The company was permitted to release 10 tons per year but was found to have released as much as 10 times that level and up to 100 times the public safety limit.

TCE is a carcinogen and exposure to it is linked to other diseases. Harmful levels of TCE have been found in our water, soil and air, including in Minneapolis, Fridley, Bayport, Edina, the St. Paul Como area, St. Louis Park and many other areas, including the upper northern part of Minnesota.

When TCE contaminates the soil and water, the risks to people increase. In the soil, it vaporizes and enters homes through basement floors, cracks and walls. In water supplies, especially private and unmonitored wells, it compromises water safety.

While citizens have tried to make their voices heard after local exposure issues were announced, we have not been heard — until this year. The Minnesota House and Senate have passed bipartisan bills to phase out the use of TCE.

Ask legislators to drive this bill home and have Minnesota lead the nation. This is critical to help save lives from the long-term health impacts TCE has on citizens, including the most vulnerable — our children.

Sherry Hastings, White Bear Township

So, what about the born babies?

Dear Alabama,

Congratulations on saving the unborn babies ("Alabama passes near-total abortion ban," May 15). Now, what are you going to do about the born babies? I eagerly await hearing about your Legislature and governor voting to expand spending for day care and early childhood education to ensure these born babies have the best chance at a successful life. And, of course, there will be need for more health care, since Alabama is fourth worst in the nation for infant mortality. (Does the state hold itself responsible for those born babies' deaths?) And there will be more need for mental health care to help those born babies' mothers work through their trauma, especially if the born babies are the product of rape or incest, but also to help process that in the land of the free, the state of Alabama has told them they must be mothers.

Yes, well done, Alabama. But now put your money where you mouth is, the true measure of commitment and conviction in this country.

Carla Steen, St. Paul

Ban it, and punish accordingly

A May 14 letter writer asks some interesting questions regarding legislation that would seek to outlaw conversion therapy. His questions are even more interesting given his years of practice as a psychiatrist. It is the opinion of many, including me, that unless the practice of conversion therapy is prohibited by law, it will continue to be practiced and mental health professionals doing so will be paid for such inhumane practices.

As a mental health professional, I strongly hope that prohibition would mean that insurance companies would indeed deny payment to someone engaging in conversion therapy, and that licensing boards would discipline and/or revoke the licenses of mental health professionals who engage in such practice. This is the manner in which many harmful practices are stopped, just as many states passed laws to prohibit physicians from performing frontal lobotomies.

To suggest, as the letter writer does, that a law prohibiting this type of practice would lead to "shaming" patients/clients and family members is utterly misleading. Data privacy laws would apply to this iatrogenically harmful practice just as they apply in the case of a patient whose doctor engages in a practice that is known to be harmful. The issues are with the provider, not the client and family.

Finally, the writer's suggestion that a law banning conversion therapy would "mandate specific content" for therapists is, frankly, ridiculous. It strikes me as disingenuous and inconsistent with his preface, in which he effectively declares himself a friend of the LGBTQ community.

Paula M. Childers, Bloomington

Respect felons: Give them a voice

Thanks to the opinion staff for publishing C. Fausto Cabrera's commentary ("Inmates like me should have a right to vote," May 16). As he says, giving inmates a voice wouldn't absolve them of anything, but it would respect their humanity, give them a voice and offer them the responsibility of being informed and making good choices.

Prison gerrymandering is a related issue. Felons are counted as residents of the community in which they reside, both while incarcerated and upon release, which affects legislative redistricting and gives voters in districts that include prisons disproportionate influence.

Thank you also for keeping this important dialogue about felons' rights, not just the right to vote, going.

Kathleen Coskran, Minneapolis

Ambulances and buses, in one lane?

Great counterpoint commentary explaining some reasons why express bus lanes won't work on Chicago Avenue ("Express buses won't work on Chicago Avenue," May 15), but the writer failed to remind officials that Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Children's Hospital and Hennepin Healthcare are also located on that street. Officials must consider ambulances navigating streets.

The ambulance challenge on Park and Portland avenues (next to Chicago Avenue) after a lane of traffic was taken for bike lanes necessitated ambulance traffic to move to Chicago Avenue — and now officials want to make them navigate there on one lane each direction? If those seeking this decision were in an ambulance needing urgent care, they'd need to ask themselves, "What was I thinking?"

Barbara Nylen, Minneapolis

Trade imbalance is a problem, but so is China's portion of our debt

I am no fan of President Donald Trump, so I was surprised to find myself in partial agreement with the May 15 letter writer who commended him for challenging the imbalance in our trade with China. One could argue with Trump's actual approach, which is causing much pain in many sectors, and his bull-headed, hyperbolic certainty (trade wars are never "easy to win"). But the imbalance is a serious problem that previous administrations have let slide, and addressing it in some way is a worthy cause.

However, a factor that's too often overlooked is that China has significant leverage over the U.S. because of its vast holdings of our national debt: over a trillion dollars, more than any other foreign power. It's much harder to negotiate with someone who has an ownership stake in your own affairs. The national debt is another area that many presidents have neglected, but Trump may be the worst of all: U.S. debt has grown $2 trillion with Trump in office, to reach $22 trillion. This reckless fiscal irresponsibility is damaging in many ways, including the fact that it undermines our trade negotiations.

Jeff Naylor, Minneapolis