The EPA recommends that Louisiana state officials consider relocating elementary school students due to toxic chemical exposure.

Source: WDSU News/YouTube

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a 56-page letter to Louisiana health and environmental officials urging them to consider moving students from an elementary school near a chemical plant. The EPA expressed concern after they found that children may be exposed to harmful levels of toxins due to the nearby Denka Performance Elastomer facility, CNN reported.

In the “Letter of Concern”, the EPA shared the results of an investigation that found that state officials may have failed to inform residents of the health risks of living close to the chemical plant. They also expressed concern over the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s (LDEQ) inaction and discrimination.

“As a result, EPA has significant concerns that Black residents and school children living and/or attending school near the Denka facility have been subjected to discrimination through LDEQ’s actions and inactions as described below in the implementation of its air pollution control permit program,” the letter read.

The Denka plant produces synthetic rubber material neoprene, which is used for numerous everyday products. Neoprene is made using the chemical chloroprene, which has been classified as a “likely human carcinogen” by the EPA.

In the letter obtained by CNN, the EPA said that the residents of the neighborhoods around the Denka plant have been exposed to “an estimated 100-in-1 million risk of developing chloroprene‑linked cancers over a 70 year lifetime.”

They found that children at the Fifth Ward Elementary School in St. John the Baptist Parish are exposed to an increased risk of cancer. The EPA recommends that state environmental officials conduct testing of locations in the parish to see where the concentrations of chloroprene are low enough to temporarily relocate the students.

Historically, low-income and people of color have been disproportionately impacted by these southern, high-pollution areas. Not only do the chemical plants impact the surrounding communities, but they play a role in climate change and global warming.

The EPA’s letter and hopefully regulation of these plants that are causing toxic levels of air pollution is a step towards equality for low-income populations and people of color who’ve spent decades being impacted by poor air quality.

Air pollution is an invisible killer and has been linked to so many diseases, including fatty liver disease, depression, and other mental health issues, and a study even found that nearly 6 million babies born prematurely in 2019 were likely linked to air pollution. Eating meat has been linked to a rise in air pollution, and factory farms are one of the biggest to blame for our dirty air. According to the WHO, an estimated 4.2 million people every year are killed by outdoor air pollution, and 99 percent of the global population breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits, with low and middle-income areas disproportionately affected. Check out these eco-artists that are using their art to call attention to the massive problem of air pollution and sign the petition to demand federal clean-up of disproportionately affected polluted areas in the United States.

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