The Plant Next Door
A Louisiana Town Plagued by Pollution Shows Why Cuts to the EPA Will Be Measured in Illnesses and Deaths
Publisher: The Intercept
Date Written: 24/03/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20576
When the Environmental Protection Agency informed people in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, last July that the local neoprene plant was emitting a chemical that gave them the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the country, the information was received not just with horror and sadness but also with a certain sense of validation.
The air pollution crisis in St. John the Baptist may be the best illustration of why we need the EPA -- and how the imminent slashing of the federal agency's budget will be measurable in illnesses and deaths. Since 2002, the EPA has periodically published a report estimating the expected number of cancers per million people in every census tract based on airborne emissions from industry. For most of the country, the expected number of cancers due to this pollution is somewhere between zero and one. The national average is .968.
But for the people living in the census tract within St. John the Baptist that is home to the Taylors, Kellers, Sanders, and Gerards, the risk is dramatically higher. According to the EPA's most recent National Air Toxics Assessment, which was published in December 2015, the lifetime risk of cancer from air pollution in this area, which is less than 2 square miles, is a staggering 777 per million people, by far the highest in the country and more than 800 times the national average. Other census tracts near the plant had risks that were more than 200, 300, and 400 times higher.