New Evidence of Unusually High Rates of Cancer and Other Illness in Louisiana Community Next to Denka/DuPont Neoprene Plant
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | July 24, 2019
Disturbing results of new health study are consistent with EPA findings that predominantly Black community faces highest likelihood in the country of developing cancer from air pollution
(Reserve, Louisiana, July 24, 2019): The University Network for Human Rights released “‘Waiting to Die:’ Toxic Emissions and Disease Near the Louisiana Denka/DuPont Plant today. The report details the results of a household health study conducted in March 2018 in the area within 2.5 kilometers of the Denka/DuPont neoprene plant in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. According to the EPA’s most recent National Air Toxics Assessment, the risk of developing cancer from air pollution in the census tract closest to the plant is nearly 50 times the national average due to emissions of chloroprene, classified by the EPA as a “likely human carcinogen.”
Data from the new study reveal extremely improbable rates of cancer and other illness among residents sampled. The study also found that prevalence of cancer and other illness among the survey sample is correlated with proximity to the Denka plant, with higher rates of illness closer to the plant.
“The results of this study support the suspicions we’ve had for a long time that we are being poisoned, and that the illness and suffering our community has experienced for years is related to emissions from the Denka/DuPont plant,” said Robert Taylor, Executive Director of the Concerned Citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish. For the past three years, the Concerned Citizens community group has demanded that the plant reduce emissions to adhere to the EPA’s guideline for maximum chloroprene air concentration, 0.2 micrograms/cubic meter (µg/m³).
Cancer prevalence among those surveyed is unusually high. Among residents surveyed, the p-value for cancer prevalence when compared to a distribution of populations with the same race, sex, and age demographics is 3.43% (statistically significant). In other words, the probability of the cancer prevalence outcome among residents surveyed—the likelihood that a population with the same race, sex, and age composition would have a cancer prevalence this high or higher—is only 3.43%.
Furthermore, cancer prevalence among those surveyed is strongly associated with proximity to the Denka facility. The p-value for cancer prevalence among survey residents who live closest to the facility (within 1.5 kilometers) is 0.33% (very statistically significant).
Prevalence of non-cancer health conditions associated with chloroprene exposure is also striking and invariably correlated with proximity to the plant. Nearly half the children in the households surveyed within 1.5 kilometers of the plant suffer from headaches, nosebleeds, or both. P-values for tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate) diagnosed by a doctor or other health care provider are 0% for both respondents and residents, indicating a virtual impossibility that high tachycardia prevalence among the survey sample was due to chance.
Among respondents surveyed within 1.5 kilometers of the plant: nearly 40% regularly experience chest pain, heart palpitations, or both; one-third regularly experience wheezing and/or difficulty breathing; more than half regularly experience headaches, dizziness, and/or lightheadedness; nearly half regularly experience eye pain/irritation and/or watery eyes; more than 40% experience cough, sneezing, and/or sore/hoarse throat most of the time; more than one-third regularly experience skin rash/irritation and/or itchy skin; and nearly 30% experience fatigue/lethargy most of the time.
“These findings are distressing and strongly indicate that prevalence of cancer and other illness among residents surveyed is unusually high compared to what we would expect using comparable national data,” said Ruhan Nagra, Executive Director of the University Network for Human Rights.
“Additional, in-depth studies of the area surrounding the Denka facility—as well as of other such communities in Cancer Alley—are very much needed,” she added. “In the meantime, however, Denka must comply with the EPA’s 0.2 µg/m³ guideline for maximum chloroprene air concentration.”
The University Network for Human Rights and the Concerned Citizens of St. John Parish will be holding a public event at 7:30pm on Wednesday, July 24 at Tchoupitoulas Chapel.
Ruhan Nagra, University Network for Human Rights
Tel: (314) 435-2377
The University Network for Human Rights (humanrightsnetwork.org) facilitates supervised undergraduate engagement in the practice of human rights at colleges and universities in the United States and across the globe. The University Network partners with advocacy organizations and communities affected or threatened by abusive state, corporate, or private conduct to advance human rights at home and abroad; trains undergraduate students in interdisciplinary human rights protection and advocacy; and collaborates with academics and human rights practitioners in other parts of the world to foster the creation of practical, interdisciplinary programs in human rights.