Toxic Emissions Taking Lives, Causing Cancer in Louisiana Area Dubbed ‘Cancer Valley’

Along an 85-mile Mississippi River corridor in Louisiana known as “Cancer Alley,” there are more than 150 chemical plants and refineries that emit toxic chemicals at high enough levels that they must report their emissions to the EPA.

Residents along the stretch of silos and smokestacks between Baton Rouge and New Orleans have reported health problems from toxic pollution exposure, including birth defects and cancer. It’s one of the most polluted places in the United States, and residents are 50 times more likely to get cancer than the average American, earning the area its unfortunate nickname.

Louisiana chemical and refinery workers are especially vulnerable to the health risks associated with chemical exposure, including cancer and the potential for birth defects in their offspring.

Despite this, “Cancer Alley” has been experiencing a dramatic expansion of petrochemical plants. In response, The United Nations has called for the end of new plant construction in the area and branded pollution issues in the region as a form of environmental racism.

Past and Present Toxic Exposure in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”

For years, Louisiana’s government supported a move from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, hoping the plants would provide good wages and help lift the state out of poverty. But air and water pollution are often deadly side-effects of a growing industrial sector.

After the Clean Air Act was enacted in 1970, emissions improved throughout the country. But recent data shows that Louisiana’s air pollution levels are again increasing. In the last 30 years, the number of plants required to report emissions to the EPA in this area of Louisiana has increased 25%, from 255 to 320 plants. Nationally, the number of plants required to report has decreased 16% over the same time period.

Louisiana has approved seven permits for new plants or additions to current plants that, based on the EPA’s criteria, would be sources of major air pollution. The state also has five pending permit applications.

Chemicals Linked to Birth Defects Found in LA Plants

Chemical pollution and exposure concerns include a range of plastic monomers, including ethylene oxide, a flammable, colorless gas used to make chemicals commonly found in plastics, antifreeze, adhesives and other consumer products. Exposure to ethylene oxide can result in respiratory and lung problems, headache, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and other health issues. Chronic exposure has been associated with birth defects, mutations, brain damage and cancer.

Chloroprene is at the center of a lawsuit by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which is suing Denko and DuPont because emissions from a neoprene plant have not been reduced to agreed-upon levels. DuPont, the inventor of neoprene, operated the facility since the 1960s. Japanese-owned Denko bought the plant in 2015.

How We Help Birth Defects Victims

Seek justice with the help of our experienced Louisiana birth defects attorneys. Our alliance of birth defects lawyers have represented people like you affected by birth defects caused by toxic exposure, aggressively fighting the corporate giants who failed to protect vulnerable workers. If you or a loved one was exposed to chemicals while pregnant and now have a child who suffers from a life-altering birth defect like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy, we can help.