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Breathing Poison:

The Toxic Costs of Industries in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana

 

 

 

A Report by

Mossville Environmental Action Now, Incorporated

Lake Charles Area Concerned Citizens

Communities for a Better Environment - NORAN Project

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund (Louisiana Office)

 

 

 

Dedication

This report is dedicated to the strength, spirit, and lives of the Prince family, who now live across the street from one of the top polluting vinyl facilities in Calcasieu Parish. Each family member suffers this toxic nightmare as they continue to fight for justice. We are inspired by their courage and pray that they and similar families may one day have a healthy and safe environment.

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Beth Zilbert, Dagmar Darjean, Monique Harden, Denny Larson, Shannon Clark, Blane Bunderson and Laura Cox-Filo for their hundreds of hours of research, writing, and editing that made this report possible. We also would like to express our deep appreciation for the tireless efforts of Damu Smith of Greenpeace in supporting community groups in Calcasieu Parish.

 


(click on image for full size photo)

Residents of the African-American community of Mossville, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana put signs in their yards to protest the toxic assault committed against them by the surrounding multinational petrochemical factories. The sign is in a yard located in the center of 17 polluting industrial facilities.

 

photo credit: Laura Cox-Filo

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Where in the World Is Calcasieu Parish, and Why Does It Have So Many Industrial Facilities?

Calcasieu Parish is located in southwest Louisiana. The western border of the parish is the Texas state line and its southern border is just a few soggy miles from the Gulf of Mexico. There is a major east-west 1-10 interstate that runs directly through the parish and its major cities of Lake Charles, Westlake and Sulphur, as part of its connection between Jacksonville, Florida and Los Angeles, California. Access to the Gulf of Mexico was made possible more than 50 years ago when a ship channel was dug in the major north-south waterway called the Calcasieu Estuary. The Calcasieu Estuary is a 40+ mile-long network of bayous, lakes, and a river that flushes down from the north of Lake Charles directly to the Gulf of Mexico.

Location helped play a large role in the industrialization of this swampy area, transforming it into a booming petrochemical center. Similar to its toxic neighbor "Cancer Alley," located about 150 miles to the east, Calcasieu Parish has a high concentration of toxic petrochemical industrial factories. See GIS Map of Industrial Facilities in Calcasieu Parish, appendix 1. "Cancer Alley" is infamous for the more than 130 manufacturing facilities that pollute the approximately 100-mile stretch of the Mississippi River Corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. On a per square mile basis, Calcasieu Parish surpasses the mass industrialization along the Mississippi River. There are more than 53 industrial factories in Calcasieu Parish, and more than forty of these plants are located within a 10-mile radius.

About 50 years ago, Calcasieu Parish became a favorite location for some of the nation’s major war time oil and gas refineries. The access to natural resources, global markets via the land and sea, and a willing group of local politicians eager to grant tax breaks and zoning changes to attract these fledgling industries to make Calcasieu Parish their home. After the war, these refineries developed products from their waste material, and thus the birth of plastics. There is a major salt dome located under the parish. Salt consists of sodium and chlorine. Chlorine, when combined with the petroleum refining by-product ethylene, becomes the building block for vinyl plastic. Calcasieu Parish rode the wave of the industrial future and became the home to more vinyl production than any other community in America.

 

Chapter One

Legal Poisons

Prior to industries locating in the parish, people developed communities nearby the Calcasieu Estuary that have suffered the consequences of rampant industrial development. Many of these communities have been in existence for more than 100 years. Today, industrialization is responsible for high levels of pollution in these communities. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industries in Calcasieu Parish are annually polluting the environment with more than 9 million pounds of toxic chemicals.(1) Over 6 million pounds of toxic chemicals are released into the air by these industries. Health studies have confirmed that people in this area are suffering from diseases and illnesses that are associated with toxic pollution.(2)

The EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) have allowed more than 53 petrochemical factories to pollute in Calcasieu Parish. These government agencies, whose mission is to protect the environment and public health, have issued permits that allow these companies to release toxic chemicals into the air, water, land, and underground. While recognizing that some of these companies have been in operation before environmental laws were established, it is also a fact that environmental agencies have allowed them to significantly increase their pollution and exceed their permitted pollution limits with lax enforcement. Since environmental laws and environmental regulatory agencies were established, there has been a significant amount of growth of industrial facilities. For communities like those in Calcasieu Parish, the environmental regulatory system has only made it legal for industrial facilities to annually dump millions of pounds of toxins into the local environment. See Table 1-A.

Table 1-A

TOP 20 POLLUTING COMPANIES IN CALCASIEU PARISH

Source: Environmental Defense Scorecard, 1997 TRI Data

RANK FACILITY TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL

RELEASES

1 LOUISIANA PIGMENT CO. 3,122,196 lbs.

2 CITGO PETROLEUM CORP. 2,242,249 lbs.

3 FIRESTONE SYNTHETIC RUBBER 2,144,458 lbs.

4 PPG INDUSTRIES, INC. 546,705 lbs.

5 CONDEA-VISTA CO. (now GEORGIA GULF) 449,449 lbs.

6 ARCO CHEMICAL CORP. 228,885 lbs.

7 CONOCO LAKE CHARLES REFINERY 199,996 lbs.

8 WESTLAKE POLYMERS CORP. 182,981 lbs.

9 OCCIDENTAL CHEMICAL CORP. 153,788 lbs.

10 W.R. GRACE AND CO. 137,400 lbs.

11 OLIN CORP. 55,828 lbs.

12 CALCASIEU REFINING CO. 44,341 lbs.

13 MONTELL USA INC. 32,686 lbs.

14 CARBOLINE CO. 22,538 lbs.

15 BIOLAB INC. 17,494 lbs.

16 WESTLAKE PETROCHEMICALS CORP. 16,932 lbs.

17 WESTLAKE STYRENE CORP. 12,168 lbs.

18 RESIN SYS. INC. 9,070 lbs.

19 INDUSTRIAL PIPE AND PLASTICS 7,000 lbs.

20 CERTAINTEED CORP. 4,500 lbs.

 

These industrial facilities must comply with the laws and regulations of the federal Clean Air Act among others. The EPA has delegated to the LDEQ the authority to issue air permits and enforce them. The LDEQ has been viewed as rubber-stamping permits for polluters. In the case where a large industrial facility seeks a permit to release 100 tons per year or more of listed toxic chemicals, the EPA must review the draft permit that the LDEQ plans to issue. The EPA's responsibility here is to determine whether the permit should be issued or not. In only 5 cases in the country, two of which occurred in Louisiana, the EPA denied a state draft permit for a large facility. Each of these EPA decisions required massive citizen protest and legal challenges.

Companies that are permitted to pollute are required by federal law to annually report to the EPA and states the amount of chemicals they release into the air, water, or land, inject underground or transfer to off-site facilities. The EPA then organizes these reports in a database called the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) and makes it available to the public. The most recent and complete TRI data available to the public are based on toxic emissions in 1997. Only preliminary TRI data have been pre-released to report on the emissions released in the year 1998. The EPA plans to finalize the 1998 TRI report by June 2000.(3)

Louisiana ranks second in the nation in toxic releases in 1997, but 10th in the nation according to the 1998 TRI figures. The drop in ranking is not due to any pollution reductions in the state. To the contrary, emission levels have increased in Louisiana since 1997. The lower ranking is due to changes in TRI reporting requirements that for the first time include seven new categories of emissions, such as releases from mining operations and electric utility generation.(4)

According to the 1997 TRI data, there were 9,635,278 pounds of total environmental releases and 331,446,121 pounds of production-related wastes in Calcasieu Parish. According to this data, the largest category of toxic releases was to the air at 6,063,638 pounds of air emissions. In 1998 the total environmental releases in Calcasieu Parish went up to 9,722,916 pounds, an increase of 87,630 pounds. Releases to air also increased by 9,040 pounds for a total of 6,072,678 pounds in 1998.(5)

Calcasieu Parish is ranked in the 90th percentile in the United States for all five categories of high environmental releases of toxic chemicals, cancer risk related to toxic releases, air releases of recognized carcinogens, air releases of recognized developmental toxicants, and air releases of recognized reproductive toxicants.(6) See Tables 1-B and 2-D below. Many of the chemicals released have serious human health impacts.

TABLE 1-B

TOXIC AIR RELEASES IN CALCASIEU PARISH SORTED BY HEALTH EFFECTS

Source: Environmental Defense Scorecard, 1997 TRI data.

RECOGNIZED CARCINOGENS 785,918 lbs.

RECOGNIZED REPRODUCTIVE TOXICANTS 141,258 lbs.

RECOGNIZED DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICANTS 757,523 lbs.

SUSPECTED CARCINOGENS 115,955 lbs.

SUSPECTED CARDIOVASCULAR OR BLOOD

TOXICANTS 2,581,035 lbs.

SUSPECTED DEVELOPMENTAL TOXICANTS 3,426,298 lbs.

SUSPECTED ENDOCRINE TOXICANTS 235,393 lbs.

SUSPECTED IMMUNOTOXICANTS 1,076,965 lbs.

SUSPECTED KIDNEY TOXICANTS 1,549,311 lbs.

SUSPECTED GASTROINTESTINAL OR LIVER

TOXICANTS 2,946,707 lbs.

SUSPECTED MUSCULOSKELETAL TOXICANTS 18,156 lbs.

SUSPECTED NEUROTOXICANTS 4,834,348 lbs.

SUSPECTED REPRODUCTIVE TOXICANTS 2,075,811 lbs.

SUSPECTED RESPIRATORY TOXICANTS 5,026,829 lbs.

SUSPECTED SKIN OR SENSE ORGAN TOXICANTS 4,671,803 lbs.

 

With a permitting process designed to reach "yes" for a toxic polluter, people are clearly not protected. For local communities in Calcasieu Parish, this means living with a concentration of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals and being targeted for more pollution as petrochemical and other industrial companies either expand or seek to build new toxic factories. For the global community, this means exposure to health-damaging pollutants, such as dioxin, a by-product of vinyl facilities in Calcasieu Parish and other chlorinated manufacturing processes. Dioxin is known to migrate around the planet and damage human health. Industries defend their pollution as being within the limits of law, but the law ineffectively protects public health.

 

1.1 Lax Environmental Enforcement Harms People

The answer to the question of how communities in Calcasieu Parish can become so choked with toxic chemicals can be found, at least in part, in the enforcement record of the LDEQ. The New York Times' regional newspapers in Louisiana conducted an extensive investigation into the LDEQ and its shoddy record of enforcing existing environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Polluters Paradise series, New York Times regional newspapers in Louisiana: Daily Comet (Thibodeaux, LA), The Courier (Houma, LA) and Daily World (Opelousas, LA), February 2000. The following is a portion of the findings resulting from the investigation:

  1. LDEQ almost never revokes permits of polluters, even if the pollution is severe, and routinely renews permits for companies with long rap sheets on environmental violations.
  2. A fourth of the penalties for environmental violations are reduced, often to levels significantly less than their original assessment in settlement agreements. More recently, LDEQ has begun waiving penalties in favor of requiring companies to conduct questionable environmental projects.
  3. In 3 out of 8 cases of environmental violations, companies pay nothing. Only 37% of the companies that were fined paid their fines in full. One-fourth of those penalized paid reduced fines. Companies that delayed payment for more than 2 years never paid the full amount. Those with reduced fines typically paid between 25 and 75 cents for every dollar of assessed penalties and fines.
  4. A survey conducted by the newspapers examined a random sample of 200 enforcement cases out of nearly 15,000 from the past 12 years. The survey revealed that records for roughly a third of these cases could not be found at all in the LDEQ files.
  5. Annual collection total for fines and penalties has been drastically reduced during the 1990’s. Penalties peaked in 1991 at $2.2 million. They bottomed out at $570,000 in 1997. The LDEQ collected about $15.8 million in fines from 1988-1999, which is less than half, approximately 45%, of all the penalties assessed.

 

1.2 Accidents Will Happen, Regularly

Each permit limits the amount of pollution that a facility can release into the environment. However, the permit limits only tell part of the story. Some local industries have found ways to emit more toxic chemicals than their permits allow. Environmental regulations allow industries to release toxic chemicals in excess of the permit limits during start-ups, shutdowns and malfunctions, but require facilities to keep these releases to a minimum. The Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines "accident" as "an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance." A review of EPA documents concludes that equipment failure and poor safety measures caused a significant number of "accidents". Faulty equipment, leaky valves, and unsafe conditions are hardly unforeseeable. These "accidents" border on neglect as they may have been avoided with improved equipment, effective maintenance, and safety standards. Environmental organizations assert that some industries have used "accidental release" as an excuse to cheaply unload toxic waste.(7)

The frequent numbers of "accidents" that increase toxic pollution in the area is harmful to people whom suffer the immediate health effects of exposure and psychological trauma. According to the Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness, there were more than 300 cases of "accidental" releases by local industrial spills, flares, fires, and leaks in the year 1999.(8) The number of accidents has increased since 1998 when there were 259 reports of accidental releases. The reports indicate that most of these "accidental" releases, an alarming 72%, spewed toxins into the air.

In November of 1999, the EPA Region VI office announced that a survey of their Emergency Response Notification System records showed that 11 companies operating in their 5-state region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas) were responsible for half of all the "accidental releases" in the entire region.(9) According to EPA documents and the news report, EPA Puts LA., Texas Chemical Plants on Notice: Facilities Ordered to Reduce Accidents, The Times Picayune, New Orleans, November 6, 1999, the 11 facilities are located in Texas and Louisiana. These companies operate hazardous facilities in close proximity to people of color communities. One of the Louisiana companies included in this group is PPG Industries in the Mossville community of Calcasieu Parish.

The chief cause of "accidental" releases by these companies was according to EPA Region VI documents, equipment failure that comprised 57% of the reported "accidents." Another cause for the "accidents" was attributed to operator error, contributing 11% of the accidents. Thus, an alarming 68% of all accidents by these facilities could have been avoided or at least minimized if the companies invested in proper equipment, implemented an effective maintenance program, and met safety standards. Although actions can be taken now to greatly reduce the number of industrial accidents in Louisiana and Texas communities, both the EPA and LDEQ have chosen a non-enforcement strategy that relies on industries' voluntarily consenting to operate safely.(10) The corporate offices of these facilities, some of which spend millions of dollars in public relations advertisements, the EPA, and LDEQ show little regard for the health and safety of the communities that live in the shadow of these dangerous factories.

The public health costs of these accidents have not been measured, but can not be overlooked as the most frequent chemical released during these "accidents" was benzene, a potent human carcinogen.(11) The EPA's decision to grant exemptions from permit limits during "accidents" and develop non-enforcement strategies that attempt to reduce industrial accidents only encourages increased levels of pollution through accidents. These regulatory approaches jeopardize public health and the environment. The lives of people are put at greater risk as facilities continue to operate poor safety procedures.

1.3 Citizens' Bucket Brigade: Putting Teeth in Environmental Protection

The routine industrial accidents compelled people living in Calcasieu Parish to organize and work toward pollution reduction. Residents were disgusted by the inaction on the part of state and federal environmental agencies when they registered complaints about noxious odors and health effects. They were also outraged by the industry propaganda that the accidents did not result in off-site impacts. Residents knew better because they could smell the odors of an accidental release and suffer the immediate health effects of toxic exposure while inside in their homes.

Citgo spokesperson Patricia Hemphill said there were no injuries and no off-site impact as a result of the fire", ‘Cause of brief fire at Citgo refinery under investigation’ article on page A2 in the Sunday, April 23 Lake Charles American Press.

In September 1998 Calcasieu Parish residents of "fenceline communities" -- neighborhoods surrounded by industrial facilities -- began to monitor the quality of their air on their own. This citizen air-monitoring project is called the Bucket Brigade. It was developed by California residents living near petroleum refineries, who were invited by residents of Calcasieu Parish to introduce it in their communities. Residents formed a cooperative training project sponsored by the California-based environmental group Communities for a Better Environment. Calcasieu Parish residents began taking samples of air in their neighborhoods during "accidental" releases. Their sampling has proven that contrary to the self-serving statements of industries, accidental releases have had off-site impacts. Toxic chemicals have been found in the air samples taken in neighborhoods far above the state health/air quality standards.

Citizens are taking air samples, following a protocol for handling, documenting, and delivering the samples to an EPA-approved laboratory for analysis. Eighteen air samples have been taken since that first day in September of 1998. The fenceline community of Mossville has an organized citizens group, Mossville Environmental Action Now, Inc. (M.E.A.N.) that has taken the bulk of these air samples in their community and around the parish. Armed with proof that industries were not controlling their emissions, citizens were able to compell the EPA and LDEQ to take action. One of the results of the citizens' Bucket Brigade has been an increase in the enforcement of federal and state environmental laws. According to an EPA official, there has been an increase of almost 1200% in environmental enforcement actions.(13)

The Bucket Brigade has gained momentum since its inaugural debut. There has been a marked decrease in accidents during the year 1999, although the number of accidents in 1999 is higher than accidents reported in 1998. Has the Bucket Brigade efforts reduced the steady climb of accidents in the parish? Time will tell. For now it is important to recognize that in the first quarter of 1999, there were 137 reported "accidents" that included 112 releases to the air.(14) From January through March 1999, there was an average of 1.5 industrial accidents per day. In contrast, during the last 6 months of 1999, there were 130 "accidents," which averages out to 0.83 accidents per day.(15) Since the Bucket Brigade effort came in to full swing there has been a reduction of 0.67 industrial accidents.

Table 1-C Calcasieu Parish Citizen Air Sample Results 1998-1999(Only Detected Chemicals Listed)

Air Sample Results

Louisiana Ambient Air Standard

Location

S. Baudoin Road

Bayou Dinde Pass Road

VCM Plant Road Mossville

Vincent Settlement School

E. Burton Street Mossville

Prince Residence

Grant & Laurel St. Westlake

Old Spanish Trail

VCM Road & 7th

   

Date

9/14/1998

9/14/1998

9/14/1998

9/14/1998

9/14/1998

1/30/1999

2/7/1999

2/8/1999

3/6/99

Compound

 

Event

         

Flare

     

Chloromethane

26.12

 

1.1

1.3

1.3

1.3

1.2

     

1.8 TR

Vinyl Chloride

0.47

     

4.7

           

Acetone

   

8.0

5.6

4.6

6.3

4.4

6.2

8.6

7.6

15

Trichlorofluoromethae

   

0.35

0.41

0.42

0.4

0.43

   

0.36 TR

1.5 TR

Methylene Chloride

   

6.8

0.49

0.53

0.66

0.48

   

0.58 TR

1.2 TR

Carbon Disulfide

   

2.8

1.6

1.4

2.1

1.3

2.0

1.9

0.80 TR

8.8

Trichlorotrifluoroethane

   

0.16

0.17

0.18

0.18

0.16

       

Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether

   

0.93

 

T

     

5.5

1.9

 

2-Butanone (MEK)

2375

 

3.3

0.89

0.77

1

0.71

1.2 TR

0.84 TR

 

1.6 TR

1,2-Dichloroethane (EDC)

0.95

     

4.7

 

T

       

1,1,1-Trichloroethane

849

 

T

T

T

T

T

       

Benenzene

3.76

 

22

T

0.47

T

0.38

1.2 TR

2.0

1.2 TR

1.4 TR

Carbon Tetrachloride

1.06

 

T

T

T

T

T

       

Toluene

2385

 

12

1.9

2.9

1.7

1.8

8.8

7.5

3.0

6.5

Tetrachloroethene

   

0.08 TR

T

T

T

T

       

Ethylbenzene

2375

 

0.89

T

0.25

T

T

       

Styrene

1195

 

3.3

0.24

T

0.24

T

       

m,p-xylenes

2375

 

1.1

0.45

0.89

0.29

0.43

     

3.3

o-xylene

1791

 

0.43

T

0.34

 

T

     

1.2 TR

1,4-Dichlorobenzene

   

0.12 TR

               

1,2-Dichlorobenzene

                     

Hydrogen Sulfide

                     

Carbonyl Sulfide

                     
                       

 

Air Sample Results

Louisiana Ambient Air Standard

Location

Grant & Guillory St

S. Baudoin Road

Houston River Road

Evergreen Westlake

East Burton St, Mossville

Cherry St/ & R.R.Ave. Lake Charles

2245 Bayou D'Inde Pass

2217 EvergreenMossville

2217 Evergreen Mossville

Perkin & Mary Streets Mossville

   

Date

2/28/99

3/18/1999

4/9/99

4/8/99

4/19/99

9/2/99

9/14/99

9/28/99

10/8/99

10/21/99

Compound

 

Event

                   

Chloromethane

26.12

 

1.3 TR

0.87 TR

1.2

1.5

0.55 TR

1.3

1.5

1.7

0.40 TR

 

Vinyl Chloride

0.47

 

0.87 TR

         

0.37 TR

     

Acetone

     

4.9

11

7.0

10

17

20

41

3.8

5.3

Trichlorofluoromethae

     

0.3 TR

0.30 TR

0.62

 

0.34

0.34

0.67

0.30

1.1

Methylene Chloride

           

0.30 TR

0.92

1.2

2.0

0.29

 

Carbon Disulfide

   

3.3

0.67

5.9

2.3

4.9

9.1

13

7.2

4.5

 

Trichlorotrifluoroethane

       

0.17 TR

0.17 TR

0.18 TR

0.16

0.18

0.11 TR

0.08 TR

 

Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether

   

5.5

   

0.40 TR

   

0.21 TR

1.2

   

2-Butanone (MEK)

2375

 

2.5

0.43 TR

0.80

0.48 TR

2.8

3.0

2.0

8.1

   

1,2-Dichloroethane (EDC)

0.95

 

0.74 TR

         

0.25 TR

     

1,1,1-Trichloroethane

849

 

1.6

         

0.21

0.11 TR

   

Benenzene

3.76

 

1Q

870

0.44 TR

0.61 TR

0.81

0.43

0.93

0.73

0.27 TR

 

Carbon Tetrachloride

1.06

           

0.14 TR

0.14 TR

0.15 TR

0.10 TR

 

Toluene

2385

 

13

120

2.5

0.99

6.0

6.6

26

12

0.84

1.0 TR

Tetrachloroethene

               

0.11 TR

2.6

   

Ethylbenzene

2375

 

0.88 TR

 

0.28

 

0.42 TR

0.53

0.60

1.4

0.24

 

Styrene

1195

           

1.8

1.1

26

0.17 TR

 

m,p-xylenes

2375

 

3.2

 

0.68

0.45 TR

1.6

1.8

1.6

3.3

0.83

 

o-xylene

1791

 

0.98

 

0.27 TR

 

0.56

0.66

0.45

1.1

0.18 TR

 

1,4-Dichlorobenzene

           

0.37

0.23

0.09 TR

0.20

   

1,2-Dichlorobenzene

             

0.39

0.09 TR

     

1,1 Dichloroethane

                       

Hydrogen Sulfide

                       

4-Methyl-2-Pentanone

             

0.20 TR

0.12 TR

     

1,3-Dichlorobenzene

             

0.13 TR

       

Trichloroethene

               

0.16 TR

0.11 TR

   

Method 16 Carbon Disulfide

               

5.15

2.89

2.46

 

Sulphur dioxide

                       
                         

Carbonyl Sulfide

       

3.29

             

 

Table 1-D Health Effects of Chemicals Detected in Calcasieu Parish Citizen Air Samples

Recognized or Suspected Carcinogen

Recognized or Suspected Gastro-intestinal or Liver Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Neurotoxin

Recognized or Suspected Reproductive Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Developmental Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Respiratory Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Immuno-toxin

Recognized or Suspected Cardio-vascular or Blood Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Kidney Toxin

 
                       

Compound

                     

Chloromethane

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

Vinyl Chloride

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

   

Acetone

 

x

x

   

x

 

x

x

x

 

Trichlorofluoromethane

 

x

x

   

x

 

x

x

   

Methylene Chloride

x

x

x

x

 

x

 

x

 

x

 

Carbon Disulfide

 

x

x

x

x

   

x

x

   

Trichlorotrifluoroethane

   

x

   

x

 

x

     

Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether

x

x

x

 

x

     

x

x

 

2-Butanone (MEK)

 

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

1,2-Dichloroethane (EDC)

x

x

x

x

x

x

X

x

x

x

 

1,1,1-Trichloroethane

 

x

x

x

x

   

x

x

   

Benzene

x

x

x

x

x

x

X

x

x

   

Carbon Tetrachloride

x

x

x

 

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

Toluene

 

x

x

x

x

x

X

x

x

x

 

Tetrachloroethene

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

Ethylbenzene

 

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

Styrene

x

x

x

 

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

m,p-xylenes

 

x

x

x

x

x

X

x

x

   

o-xylene

 

x

x

x

x

x

X

x

x

   

1,4-Dichlorobenzene

x

x

x

 

x

x

 

x

x

x

 

1,2-Dichlorobenzene

 

x

x

               

Hydrogen Sulfide

   

x

   

x

 

x

     

Carbonyl Sulfide

   

x

         

x

   
                       

 

Chapter Two

Unhealthy Environment & Unhealthy People

Reports on the health of people in Calcasieu Parish confirm that residents are suffering from a host of ill health effects that are associated with the toxins generated by local industrial factories. Cancers, reproductive abnormalities, heart disease are just a few of the health problems that residents endure. The future of families and the communities that they live in are threatened by toxic exposure.

 

2.1 Toxic Air, Dioxin Exposure & Human Health

Dioxin is one of the most toxic, anthropogenic chemicals known to science. There are approximately 75 toxic chemicals that compose the class of compounds known as dioxin, which is the unintended by-product of chemical production involving chlorine. In particular, dioxin is an unavoidable by-product of vinyl manufacturing, which is manufactured from significant amounts of chlorine.(16) According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and other health authorities, people can be exposed to high levels of dioxin by living near incinerators and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and breathing this toxin in the air.(17) Some of the known health effects of dioxin include cancer, endometriosis, increased infertility and reproductive disorders, attention deficit disorder, lupus and other auto-immune diseases, and asthma. (18)

[[17=ATSDR Chlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins Fact Sheet, February 1999.

 

18=Birnbaum L. The mechanism of dioxin toxicity: relationship to risk assessment. Environmental Health Perspective 1994;102 (Sup. 9):157-167. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Health assessment document for 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and related compounds. Vols. I-III (review draft). Washington DC: U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, EPA/600/BP-92-001. 1994(a); EPA Links Dioxin To Cancer, The Washington Post, May 17, 2000, p. A1]]

There is more vinyl production in Calcasieu Parish than in any other county in America.(19) The vinyl plants, PPG Industries and CondeaVista (recently acquired by Georgia Gulf) have located and expanded in the small African American community of Mossville, near Lake Charles. Like many Louisiana communities surrounded by industrial facilities, Mossville was founded shortly after the Civil War by Afro-Americans. In Louisiana's Cancer Alley, the two communities of Reveilletown and Morrisonville shared a similar history as Mossville, but were uprooted by other vinyl companies, Georgia Gulf and Dow, respectively, that operated plants next to them. Today, some Mossville residents homes have been bought by the CondeaVista company as part of a settlement of a lawsuit brought against the company for contaminating the well water in Mossville. Poor health and environmental contamination jeopardize the survival of communities like Mossville.

In 1998 residents of the Mossville community and the surrounding area volunteered to have their blood tested for dioxin. The dioxin-blood tests were analyzed by scientists hired by the Baggett, McCall law firm in Lake Charles. The results of the tests were alarming and confirmed that residents living near vinyl plants had high levels of the most toxic dioxin compound in their blood. As dioxin is known to be lipophilic (binding with fat cells in the body), the high levels of this toxin in the blood indicates only a fraction of the total dioxin in resident's bodies. These tests were shared with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH), which refused to investigate the dioxin results.(20)

In response to the outrageous decision by the LDHH, citizens appealed to the federal ATSDR for help. The ATSDR conducted its own tests in the Mossville community and later confirmed that residents in Mossville do in fact have high levels of dioxin in their blood.(21) According to the ATSDR, the dioxin found in the blood of Mossville residents was significantly higher than the average dioxin level known to exist in the general public. Subsequent dioxin health assessments concluded that the dioxin is likely to come from a local source(s).(22) The ATSDR analyzed, not only blood samples of Mossville residents, but also took samples of breast milk from a young mother, soil, and eggs from locally raised fowl. Dioxin was detected in all of these samples as well. The ATSDR recommended that "additional environmental testing [be done] to identify possible sources of dioxin exposure in residents of Mossville, and minimize exposure to environmental sources of dioxin that are identified."(23)

Presently, Mossville residents are struggling to make government agencies take responsible action that lowers pollution and assists them in establishing a health services and medical monitoring clinic in the community. To date, the government agencies, ATSDR, EPA, LDEQ, and LDHH, have shown a resistance to providing this assistance to the community.(24) Mossville community groups are continuing to negotiate with government agencies for responsive action.

It is a scientific fact that Mossville residents, people in Calcasieu Parish, and around the world are being exposed to dioxins.(25) The EPA will soon release its assessment that dioxin causes cancer in humans, in addition to a number of other endocrine-damaging effects.(26) The EPA report follows similar conclusions reached by a committee of the United Nations' World Health Organization. Both governmental scientific assessments are powerful tools for ending the debate on the cancer-causing effects of dioxin, and bolster the call for eliminating dioxins from the environment.

The recent battery of dioxin tests in Mossville demonstrates that the African American people who live here are on the frontlines of dioxin exposure and suffering poor health. The known effects of dioxin on impairing childhood development are especially troubling because of its potential for limiting the progress of children into adulthood. The wide-ranging negative effects of dioxin, alone and in combination with other known toxins in the area have serious implications for the future of Mossville families and their community. The dioxin health crisis in the Mossville community is also a disturbing sign of what may be the future for many more communities around the world if dioxins are not eliminated.

 

2.2 Health Survey Confirms Residents’ Claims of High Rates of Illness

Dr. Marvin Legator, a noted toxicologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston learned about the Mossville area and its inundation of chemical factories. He agreed to help local residents in identifying the health problems existing among residents and their possible association with environmental toxins. Dr. Legator has been conducting these health symptom surveys for many years. He is widely recognized for his assistance to the residents of Love Canal, New York in making the case that their severe health problems were related to the toxic site in their community.

Dr. Legator coordinated a team of volunteers and Mossville residents in conducting a door-to-door health symptom. The information collected in the Mossville health symptom survey conducted led Dr. Legator to conclude, "This community is one of the most heavily impacted communities I have ever studied. This community is very sick."(27)

Specifically, the survey revealed that 99% of the 96 people surveyed reported having at least one symptom in the categories of illness related to exposure to the chemicals produced by area petrochemical plants. Eighty-four percent of the 96 respondents reported having nervous system problems such as frequent headaches, dizziness, seizures and short-term memory loss. 71% percent reported having problems with their cardiovascular system such as high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, heart disease and stroke. 57% reported having skin problems such as eczema, unusual rashes, red spots and hives. 55% reported having immune system problems such as frequent colds, allergies, brittle hair and hair loss. According to the survey, Mossville residents suffered from illnesses related to chemical exposure 2-3 times higher than that of a control group in every one of the 12 body system categories.(28)

 

2.3 Mortality Rates in Calcasieu Parish

When looking at health problems in Calcasieu Parish, it is more helpful to look at mortality rates than incidence rates. In her book Living Downstream, Dr. Sandra Steingraber explains that incidence rates of illness, or the rates of occurrence of illnesses, can sometimes be misleading.(29) If a person does not go to a doctor or is misdiagnosed or undiagnosed for a serious illness, that person will not be reflected in the incidence rates. Similarly, if a person does not stay in their "statistical area" when they seek medical diagnosis or treatment, their illness will not be recorded in their home county or parish incidence rate statistic.

Mortality rates are much harder to dispute. Even those who disagree on the exact nature of the deleterious effects of toxic chemical exposure can not dispute the fact of a person's death. However, even mortality rates can be lower than actual rates of illness when, for example, the reason for death provided in the death certificate maybe inaccurate. A person dying from liver cancer may not have been diagnosed or treated for the disease. This person's death certificate may list "heart failure" and not liver cancer as the cause of death. Nevertheless, even with inaccurate death certificates that could result in the undercounting of deaths from cancers or other diseases, mortality rates are a better indicator of the rates of illness and disease in a community than incidence rates.

Mortality rates from certain illnesses and diseases in Calcasieu Parish have been calculated and compared to the mortality rates for those same illnesses and diseases in Louisiana and across the nation. See Table 2-A. The people of Calcasieu Parish are dying from heart disease, a disease that is linked to environmental toxins, at a rate of 310.5 per a population of 100,000 while the people of the state of Louisiana are dying from heart disease at a rate of 292 per 100,000 population.(30) The rate of heart disease deaths in Calcasieu Parish is 2.5 times higher than the national average, which is 152 per a population of 100,000. The State of Louisiana is 1.9 times higher than the national average for deaths from heart disease. In Calcasieu Parish there were 2,581,035 pounds of toxic chemicals released into the air that are known cardiovascular toxicants. See Table 2-C.

 

TABLE 2-A

LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH* 1991-1993

Source: Louisiana Office of Public Health, Parish Profile 1995

Heart Disease Cancer Stroke Diabetes Lung Disease Pneumonia & Flu

Calcasieu 310.5 216.7 47.5 24.9 35.3 26

Louisiana 292 212 56 34 33 24

USA 152 135 28 12 20 14

*Deaths per population of 100,000.

 

Tables 2-B and 2-C show which chemicals are dumped into the air in parish is the greatest numbers and what the human health impacts are of each toxin. Note how many of the top 20 chemicals emitted to the air are carcinogens, cardiovascular, reproductive and developmental toxicants.

 

Mortality rates for cancer in Calcasieu Parish are also alarming when compared to the state and national average. People are dying from cancer at a rate of 135 per 100,000 population in the nation, 212 per 100,000 in the state of Louisiana and 216.7 per 100,000 in Calcasieu Parish. The average rate of cancer deaths is 1.6 times higher in Calcasieu Parish than the national average.(31)

TABLE 2-B

TOP 20 TOXIC CHEMICALS RELEASED IN CALCASIEU PARISH

Source: Environmental Defense Scorecard, 1997 TRI data

RANK CHEMICAL NAME POUNDS

1 MANGANESE 3,100,289

2 N-HEXANE 1,652,628

3 TOLUENE 625,352

4 ETHYLENE 597,902

5 1,3 BUTADIENE 456,981

6 METHYL ETHYL KETONE 444,335

7 PROPYLENE 422,502

8 AMMONIA 321,248

9 NITRATE COMPOUNDS 280,547

10 XYLENE (MIXED ISOMERS) 260,884

11 CYCLOHEXANE 225,004

12 BENZENE 131,610

13 HYDROCHLORIC ACID 126,311

14 METHANOL 113,524

15 CHLORINE 99,423

16 1,1,1 TRICHLOROETHANE 78,808

17 ETHYLBENZENE 58,717

18 1,2 DICHLOROETHANE 57,902

19 CARBONYL SULFIDE 50,660

20 PHENOL 48,890

 

2-C Health Effects of Top 20 Chemical Releases in Calcasieu Parish for 1997

Recognized or Suspected Carcinogen

Recognized Or Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxin

Recognized Or Suspected Neurotoxin

Recognized or Suspected Reproductive Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Develop-mental Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Respiratory Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Immuno-toxin

Recognized or Suspected Cardio-vascular or Blood Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxin

Recognized or Suspected Kidney Toxin

 
                       

Compound

                     

Manganese

 

X

x

x

 

x

         

N-Hexane

   

x

 

x

x

   

X

   

Toluene

 

X

x

x

x

x

x

X

X

X

 

Ethylene

Health Effects of Chemicals Found in Citizen air samples

 

x

               

1,3 Butadiene

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

X

X

   

Methyl Ethyl Ketone

 

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

X

X

 

Propylene

         

x

         

Ammonia

 

x

x

   

x

   

X

   

Nitrate

             

x

     

Xylene(mixed isomers)

 

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

X

   

Cyclohexane

   

x

               

Benzene

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

X

   

Hydrochloric Acid

 

x

     

x

   

X

   

Methanol

 

x

x

 

x

x

   

X

   

Chlorine

 

x

x

   

x

 

x

X

X

 

1,1,1 Trichloroethane

 

x

x

x

x

   

x

X

   

Ethylbenzene

 

x

x

x

x

x

 

x

X

X

 

1,2 Dichloroethane

 

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

X

 

Carbonyl Sulfide

   

x

         

x

   

Phenol

 

x

x

 

x

x

 

x

x

X

 

Cancer is not the only health impact of concern in relation to exposure to toxic chemicals. Tables 2-D and 2-E indicate the high ranking of Calcasieu Parish in the nation and state for significant levels of air pollution that are recognized or suspected reproductive and developmental toxins. What is most disturbing about this information is that the people in Calcasieu Parish are not just at a high risk for cancer from pollution --14th in the U.S. and 3rd in the state of Louisiana -- but that the ability to reproduce and the health of future generations are being put at great risk.

 

TABLE 2-D

CALCASIEU PARISH RANK AMONG

TOP 100 MOST POLLUTING COUNTIES IN U.S.

FOR TOXIC AIR EMISSION HEALTH EFFECTS

Source: Environmental Defense Scorecard, 1997 TRI data

9th in the U.S. Total Production Related Waste* 331,446,121 lbs.

14th in the U.S. Cancer Risk Score* 7,803,800 lbs.

16th in the U.S. Suspected Developmental Toxicants 3,426,298 lbs.

23rd in the U.S. Air Pollution 6,063,638 lbs.

25th in the U.S. Suspected Reproductive Toxicants 2,075,811 lbs.

27th in the U.S. Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicants 4,671,803 lbs.

27th in the U.S. Suspected Cardiovascular and Blood Toxicants 2,581,035 lbs.

28th in the U.S. Suspected Respiratory Toxicants 5,026,829 lbs.

28th in the U.S. Suspected Neurotoxins 4,834,348 lbs. 28th in the U.S. Recognized Carcinogens 785,918 lbs.

31st in the U.S. Suspected Immunotoxicants 1,076,965 lbs.

37th in the U.S. Recognized Reproductive Toxicants 141,258 lbs.

38th in the U.S. Recognized Developmental Toxicants 757,523 lbs.

41st in the U.S. Total Environmental Releases* 9,635,278 lbs.

44th in the U.S. Suspected Kidney Toxicants 1,549,311 lbs.

58th in the U.S. Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicants 2,946,707 lbs.

(* Indicates waste and pollution not solely released to the air)

 

TABLE 2-E

CALCASIEU PARISH RANK AMONG LOUISIANA'S 64 PARISHES

FOR TOXIC AIR EMISSIONS & TOXIC HEALTH EFFECTS

Source: Environmental Defense Scorecard, 1997 TRI data

1st in LA Suspected Reproductive Toxicants 2,075,811 lbs.

2nd in LA Recognized Carcinogens 785,918 lbs.

2nd in LA Suspected Developmental Toxicants 3,426,298 lbs.

2nd in LA Suspected Blood Toxicants 2,581,035 lbs.

2nd in LA Suspected Immunotoxicants 1,076,965 lbs.

3rd in LA Total Production Related Waste* 331,446,121 lbs.

3rd in LA Cancer Risk Score* 7,803,800 lbs.

3rd in LA Recognized Developmental Toxicants 757,523 lbs.

3rd in LA Suspected Kidney Toxicants 1,549,311 lbs.

4th in LA Air Pollution 6,063,638 lbs.

4th in LA Suspected Respiratory Toxicants 5,026,829 lbs.

4th in LA Suspected Neurotoxicants 4,834,348 lbs.

4th in LA Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicants 4,671,803 lbs.

5th iin LA Recognized Reproductive Toxicants 141,258 lbs.

5th in LA Suspected Gastrointestinal of Liver Toxicants 2,946,707 lbs.

6th in LA Total Environmental Releases* 9,635,278 lbs

7th in LA Suspected Carcinogens 115,955 lbs.

7th in LA Suspected Endocrine Toxicants 235,393 lbs.

11th in LA Suspected Musculoskeletal Toxicants 1,549,311 lbs.

(* Indicates waste and pollution not solely released to the air)

Chapter Three

Mossville: A Community Struggling for Environmental Justice

The community of Mossville is a small enclave of modest homes, where residents are desperately holding on to the American dream. Located on the northwest outskirts of the city of Lake Charles in Calcasieu Parish and surrounded by smokestacks and railcars, Mossville is a predominantly African-American neighborhood created by the descendants of black people after the Civil War. Similar to other industrialized people of color communities in Louisiana, the community of Mossville is not incorporated and does not have a political voice. Decisions affecting the Mossville community are made at the parish level and, in some cases, at the municipal level of the two towns of Westlake and Sulphur that divided and annexed the community. While the residents of Calcasieu Parish earn an annual median household income of $29,073.(32) The people of Mossville have an average household income of just over $8,000 per year.

This is a community where land has a high value to residents as it passes from one generation to the next. It is tangible, it is fully owned, and it cannot be taken away, like so many other precious things in life. Unfortunately, the historical and communal values of the Mossville community have been completely ignored by the industries in Calcasieu Parish. Seventeen of the 53 industrial facilities in the parish are located within one-half mile of the boundaries of Mossville. See Tables below. These facilities are Air Liquide, Arch Chemical, BioLab, Certainteed, Condea-Vista Chemical Company, Conoco Petrochemical Refinery, Entergy/Gulf States Coal-Fired Power Plant, Excel Paralubes, Georgia-Gulf, Jupiter Chemicals, Lyondell/Arco Chemical, Nelson Industrial Steam Plant, Olin, PHH Monomers, PPG Industries, and Tetra Chemicals. See GIS Map of Industrial Facilities in Calcasieu Parish, appendix 1

Residents of Mossville have joined the national and emerging international struggle for environmental justice. The environmental justice movement has steered institutional policy changes in federal and state government. The President's Executive Order on Environmental Justice recognizes that people of color and the poor suffer from a disproportionate pollution burden. In particular, the EPA and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, have made notable changes in their attempts to reduce and prevent the disproportionate pollution burdens that fall on people of color. More work must be done as waste sites and hazardous facilities continue to pollute and harm people of color and the poor.

Out of love for their families and community, Mossville citizen activists are struggling for pollution reduction, environmental health services, and a fair and just relocation for consenting residents. They have advocated at the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights for support in combating environmental racism in the U.S. and abroad.(33) They have also participated in the United Nations' Environment Programme in treaty negotiations for the elimination of dioxin.(34) Residents are determined to strengthen and broaden their struggle and are part of a growing coalition of diverse groups that fights for human rights and environmental justice.

3.1 Notorious Polluters in Mossville

Of the seventeen toxic facilities that surround Mossville, PPG Industries stands out nationally as a major polluter. PPG Industries ranked 20th in the nation for total production related wastes of 141,674,881 pounds in 1997. This company is also ranked 49th in the nation for cancer risk score at 1,394,641 pounds of benzene equivalents in 1997. In the state of Louisiana, PPG Industries alone emitted 143,155 pounds of recognized carcinogens, which is 1/5 of the 785,918 pounds released in the state. Of the 2,075,811 pounds of suspected reproductive toxicants released in the state, PPG Industries released 197,713 pounds, approximately 1/10, of such toxins.(35)

PPG is also one of the facilities surrounding Mossville that is responsible for contaminating the drinking water of Mossville when it leaked hundreds of thousands of pounds ethylene dichloride, a feedstock for vinyl production, into the groundwater.(36) Conoco and CondeaVista have been held responsible for leaking this toxin into the groundwater. As a result, the Chicot Aquifer, a primary source for drinking water in Louisiana and Texas that flows below Mossville, is threatened by this and other industrial spills and leaks.(37)

Table 3-A

Comparison of Total Toxic Releases by Mossville Area Toxic Facilities*

for the Years 1997 and 1998

Facility 1998 Total Toxic 1997 Total Toxic Difference in

Releases Releases Toxic Releases

PPG Industries 744,812 lbs. 546,705 lbs. + 198,107 lbs.

Condea-Vista 521,906 lbs. 449,449 lbs. + 72,457 lbs.

Conoco 253,600 lbs. 199,996 lbs. + 53,604 lbs.

Lyondell/Arco 209,735 lbs. 228,885 lbs. - 19,150 lbs.

Entergy 170,134 lbs. Not required to report

Olin 57,752 lbs. 55,828 lbs. + 1,924 lbs.

Biolab 23,234 lbs. 17,494 lbs. + 5,740 lbs.

Tetra Chemicals 3,258 lbs. 2,675 lbs. + 583 lbs.

Certainteed 3,250 lbs. 4,500 lbs. - 1,250 lbs.

Total 1,987,681 lbs. 1,276,647 lbs. + 691,884 lbs.

(* 1998 TRI Data Available for nine of the sixteen facilities surrounding the Mossville area. 1997 TRI data available for eight of these facilities.)

 

Mossville is a small community of about 1,500 people with some homes owned by people living well below the poverty level. The homes can not keep out the flow of toxic air streaming past them. The toxic air pollution spewed by nearby factories constitute an assault on the respiratory systems of residents who need healthy air quality. The total air releases by companies surrounding the Mossville community were approximately 1/5 of the total air releases for the state of Louisiana. See Tables 3-B and 3-C.

Table 3-B

Toxic Air Releases by Industries Near the Mossville Community

Source: 1997 TRI Data

FACILITY TOXIC AIR RELEASES

Arco 45,504 lbs.

Biolab 3,194 lbs.

Certainteed 4,500 lbs.

Condea-Vista 448,976 lbs.

Conoco 167,521 lbs.

Olin 55,828 lbs.

PPG 434,733 lbs.

Tetra Chemicals 2,675 lbs.

Mossville Area Total 1,162,931 lbs.

Louisiana Total 6,063,638 lbs.

 

Table 3-C

Ranking of Mossville Area Industries in the State of Louisiana

Based on Toxicity of Emissions

Source: Environmental Defense Scorecard, 1997 TRI Data

I. Air Releases of Recognized Carcinogens

9th in LA PPG Industries 143,155 lbs.

30th in LA Condea-Vista 41,287 lbs.

43rd in LA Conoco 15,420 lbs.

68th in LA Certainteed 4,500 lbs.

69th in LA Olin 4,270 lbs.

74th in LA Lyondell/Arco 2,615 lbs.

Total: 211,247 lbs. -- approximately 1/3 of the recognized air carcinogens released in the state (785,918 lbs.)

II. Air Releases of Recognized Developmental Toxicants

28th in LA Conoco 21,500 lbs.

34th in LA Condea-Vista 15,920 lbs.

Total: 37,420 lbs. -- approximately 1/20 of the recognized developmental air toxicants released in the state (757,523 lbs.)

III. Air Releases of Recognized Reproductive Toxicants

20th in LA Condea-Vista 21,823 lbs.

24th in LA Conoco 8,300 lbs.

47th in LA Lyondell/Arco 450 lbs.

Total: 30,573 lbs. -- more than 1/4 of the recognized reproductive toxicants released in the state (141,258 lbs.)

IV. Air Releases of Suspected Carcinogens

33rd in LA Conoco 16,286 lbs.

43rd in LA Olin 8,139 lbs.

46th in LA PPG 7,033 lbs.

65th in LA Condea-Vista 1,339 lbs.

75th in LA Lyondell/Arco 450 lbs.

Total 33,247 lbs. -- more than 1/3 of the total air releases of suspected carcinogens in the state (115,955 lbs.)

V. Air Releases of Suspected Reproductive Toxicants

12th in LA PPG 197,713 lbs.

40th in LA Conoco 38,525 lbs.

61st in LA Condea-Vista 20,149 lbs.

84th in LA Certainteed 4,500 lbs.

98th in LA Arco 3,812 lbs.

Total 264,699 lbs. -- more than 1/7 of the total air releases of suspected reproductive toxicants for the state (2,075,811 lbs.)

VI. Air Releases of Suspected Developmental Toxicants

30th in LA PPG 235,521lbs.

51st in LA Conoco 79,721 lbs.

56th in LA Condea-Vista 64,276 lbs.

99th in LA Arco 10,227 lbs.

Total 389,745 lbs. -- more than 1/8 of the total air releases of suspected developmental toxicants in the state (3,426,298 lbs.)

VII. Cancer Risk Score (in pounds of benzene equivalents released)

8th in LA PPG 1,394,641 lbs.

14th in LA Condea-Vista 370,123 lbs.

36th in LA Conoco 43,884 lbs.

50th in LA Olin 11,445 lbs.

57th in LA Certainteed 6,629 lbs.

97th in LA Arco 164 lbs.

Total 1,826,886 lbs.

 

3.2 Industrial Accidents Abound in Mossville

As discussed above in Section 1.2, accidental releases create increased pollution that go beyond permit limits. In addition, it is likely that more than half of these accidents may have been avoided with proper safety and maintenance.(38) The life and death risk of accidents are particularly debilitating to communities that are in the shadow of smokestacks. The companies surrounding Mossville contribute significantly to the number of "accidental" releases in Calcasieu Parish. In 1999, out of more than 300 total reported incidents of "accidental" releases in the parish, 154 were caused by companies located within one-half mile of the Mossville community.(39) See Table 3-D.

Most of the air samples were taken when the facilities surrounding Mossville were having visible problems such as large orange flames or flares blazing from smokestacks, large clouds of thick, billowing smoke wafting into the neighborhood and when strong noxious odors were smelled. Sometimes the companies reported these problems to the various local, state and federal agencies and sometimes they didn’t. In one case, CondeaVista failed to report 36 hours of flaring that was captured on videotape by the Prince family. The Prince family delivered the video to the EPA, which took immediate enforcement action based on the evidence of the videotape.(40)

Table 3-D

Accidents Reported by Mossville Area Industries in 1999

Source: Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness

Emergency Release Reports

Facility No. of Reported Accidents

CondeaVista 41

PPG Industries 41

Conoco 33

Lyondell/Arco 27

Arch Chemical 10

Olin 1

Total 154

 

A closer look at the data collected from the air samples taken in and around the Mossville area reveal that there are nine toxic chemicals detected in almost every air sample. Residents are exposed to these chemicals that have damaging effects on health. These chemicals and their related health effects are listed below. See Table 1-D above for information about all of the air samples taken by the citizens' Bucket Brigade.

MOST COMMON CHEMICALS

FOUND IN AIR SAMPLES TAKEN IN THE MOSSVILLE AREA

CHLOROMETHANE - Suspected Carcinogen, Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Developmental Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal of Liver Toxicant, Suspected Kidney Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ.

ACETONE - Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal of Liver Toxicant, Suspected Kidney Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

TRICHLOROFLUOROMETHANE - Suspected Cardiovascular Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

METHYLENE CHLORIDE - Recognized Carcinogen, Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Endocrine Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Kidney Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant.

CARBON DISULFIDE - Recognized Developmental Toxicant, Recognized Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Endocrine Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

2-BUTANONE (METHYL ETHYL KETONE) - Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Development Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Kidney Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

BENZENE - Recognized Carcinogen, Recognized Reproductive Toxicant, Recognized Developmental Toxicant, Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Endocrine Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Immunotoxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

TOLUENE - Recognized Developmental Toxicant, Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Immunotoxicant, Suspected Kidney Toxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

XYLENE - Suspected Cardiovascular or Blood Toxicant, Suspected Developmental Toxicant, Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Suspected Immunotoxicant, Suspected Neurotoxicant, Suspected Reproductive Toxicant, Suspected Respiratory Toxicant, Suspected Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.

 

3.3 Information on Health Problems in Mossville Related to Toxic Exposure

Is it possible that the community of Mossville is unaffected by the dangerous levels of toxic emissions produced by the 16 industries that surround them? A more detailed look at the data in Dr. Legator’s Symptom Survey suggests that this community is indeed suffering from illnesses and symptoms related to the chemicals produced and emitted around them. As discussed more fully in Section 2.2, Dr. Legator found that the numbers for Mossville were 2-3 times higher than the rates of illness in the control group. Here are the survey results with examples of the symptoms that Mossville residents suffer:

*91% of the people in Mossville surveyed had ear, nose and throat symptoms such as burning eyes, nasal soreness, nose bleeds and sinus and ear infections;

*84% of the people in Mossville surveyed had symptoms of central nervous system illnesses such as headaches, dizziness, tremors and seizures;

*73% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to muscle and bone illnesses such as arthritis, stiffness in the joints and painful limbs;

*71% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to illnesses of the cardiovascular system such as irregular heart beat, stroke, heart disease and chest pain;

*69% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to problems with their teeth and gums such as sore gums, excessive tooth loss, toothaches and excessive cavities;

*57% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to digestive system illnesses such as frequent vomiting, ulcers, frequent diarrhea and jaundice;

*57% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to skin illnesses such as eczema, unusual rashes, hives and itchy skin;

*55% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to immune system problems such as brittle hair, allergies, frequent colds and loss of hair;

*46% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to problems with the respiratory symptoms such as persistent bronchitis, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing up blood (all smokers were removed from the participant pool to calculate this number);

*40% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to problems with the urinary tract such as kidney infections, bladder infections, blood in the urine and bladder disease;

*36% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to problems in the blood such as persistent anemia, abnormal blood count, spleen problems and clotting disorder; and,

*24% of the people of Mossville surveyed had symptoms related to problems with the endocrine system such as thyroid condition, diabetes, hypoglycemia or hormonal conditions.

(*Source: Dr. Marvin Legator’s Symptom Survey for the Community of Mossville, October 1998)

The National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health have produced a Cancer Atlas for the years 1950-1994. A look at the cancer mortality rate for Calcasieu Parish, compared with that of the state of Louisiana also verifies the fears of the residents’ of Mossville. Cancer mortality for black males for all cancers combined, brain cancer, bladder cancer and leukemia, was higher in Calcasieu Parish than in any other parish in the state for the time period of 1970-1994.(41)*Atlas of Cancer Mortality, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute.* The cancer mortality rate for lung, trachea, bronchus and pleura cancers and leukemia for black females was also higher for Calcasieu Parish than any other parish in the state for that same time period.(42)

3.4 Dioxin Isn’t Just in Vietnam Anymore

Chapter 2 discussed the ATSDR's confirmation that the people of Mossville have been exposed to dioxin. A private study in 1997 revealed some alarmingly high numbers. Local industries of course denied having anything to do with local human dioxin exposure. However, the private study dioxin numbers for the "background" levels of dioxin exposure in humans were so high, and under pressure from national anti-dioxin leaders and environmental justice advocates, the ATSDR studied the blood from 28 Mossville residents. Soil, poultry eggs and breast milk were also sampled from the Mossville community. The results were publicly released four months later and led to the following conclusions *Dioxin and PCB Contamination in Mossville, Louisiana: A Review of the Exposure Investigation by ATSDR by Dr. Pat Costner, Greenpeace International Senior Scientist and internationally respected expert on human exposure to dioxin:

1. The blood of the 28 Mossville residents tested carries an average concentration of dioxins (including four of the dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenols or PCBs) that is more than 3 times higher than the average concentration of the ‘background’ levels represented by ATSDR’s comparison group;

2. The relative concentrations of the 17 most toxic dioxins in the blood of the Mossville people are substantially different from those of the ATSDR’s comparison group. This suggests that one or more of the local dioxin sources are contributing to the elevated levels among Mossville residents;*Dr. Peter Orris’ report on consulting activities related to Mossville, LA.

3. The breast milk of one nursing mother from Mossville was analyzed and found to carry a total concentration of dioxins and four dioxin-like PCB’s that is 30% higher than the average level found in US breast milk during 1995-1997. This finding suggests that infants born in Mossville may be experiencing higher prenatal and postnatal dioxin exposure than the average US infant

4. Two eggs from chickens raised by Mossville residents carried dioxin levels that were 10-14 times higher than those of home-produced eggs from an uncontaminated area of California. Dioxin levels in the Mossville eggs were two times higher than the level at which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies eggs as adulterated.*US Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service memo July 8,1997 Advisory to Owners and Custodians of Poulty, Livestock and Eggs.

5. Dioxin levels in the soil samples from the yards of 3 Mossville homes were, on average, a factor of 17 times higher than the level in rural soils and 1.5 times that in urban soils from US and Canada.*’Analysis of PCDD and PCDF patterns in Soil Samples: Use in the Estimation of the Risk of Exposures’, B. Birmingham, Chemosphere 20, 807

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For more information contact Dagmar Darjean (DeLilith@aol.com)

See also: Mossville Chemical Accident Preparedness Maps




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