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Louisiana Environmental Effects

Louisiana Environmental Effects

Despite of the positive economic transformation the chemical plants bring in Louisiana there are multitude of environmental impacts caused by the plants in the region. There are several toxic substances released by the plants that expose humans to various dangers because it contaminates air, soil, food, and water. Some of the hazardous chemicals such s Phthalates, chromium and Toluene cause long-term Health risks such as cancer, developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, damage to the kidneys and liver and respiratory diseases such as Bronchitis. Schleifstein explains that Louisiana’s 17 refineries and two associated chemical plants cause almost 6 accidents weekly and releases 2.3 million pounds of pollution (Web). Petrochemical and other related chemical plants have significantly raised health and environment risk that have negatively changed the lifestyle of the community around Louisiana.

Louisiana Environmental Effects

Center for Environmental Health explains that Louisiana produces over 16,000 pounds of harmful waste chemicals yearly as the state’s plants release only 6.5% of chemicals manufactured in US of all the dangerous chemicals produced in America (Web). There has been power and political influence that have allowed petrochemical and chemicals industries in the state including failure of the Louisiana Stream Control Commission that has not performed its functions as required. The massive chemical and oil plants in the state have imposed dangerous threat to the many lives in the state thus changing the people’s lifestyle. Ascension Paris is one of the regions in Louisiana that leads in chemical production as per Environmental protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory that absorb millions of pounds of hazardous chemical compounds (Cernansky Web).

Some of the hazardous releases include recognized carcinogens, developmental toxicants, and release of reproductive toxicants that have imposed serious health risk to the residents. According to  Center for Environmental Health, Ascension parish released over 1, 000 dangerous industrial chemicals between 2001-2008 with ammonia that had a potential of causing irritation and serious burns on the skin, mouth, throat, lungs  as well as hydrochloric acid that that can cause corrosive damage (Web). Some of the effects of the release are evident in the recent years. Interestingly, the data released was only based on a few monitored industrial chemical pollutants but not all the hazardous chemicals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury (Schleifstein Web).

In US, several studies indicate that most of the industrial chemical release lack adequate hazard screening particularly on the environment fate. No serious basic hazard assessment has come to the rescue of the many Louisiana residents and this remains a concern for both old and new chemicals. It is therefore clear that health risk associated with living near and or working in a chemical plant has not been properly considered as a matter of concern (Cernansky Web). Many chemical plants in the region have expanded their operations such as the Donaldsonville plant, the largest nitrogenous fertilizer production in North America manufacturing almost 5 million tons of nitrogen products yearly that has undergone significant expansion since 1960s. It is worth noting that generating nitrogen from natural gas is a hazardous process that generates vast amount of carbon dioxide and millions of toxic substances.

According to Center for Environmental Health, Donaldsonville facility, just like many facilities in Louisiana exposes residents and the environment to great risks that add up as serious safety and health violations (Web). Some of the chemicals that are highly flammable have caused serious damage to property and fatal injuries to workers. Cernansky explains that explosions and leaks at CF and other chemical plants in Louisiana have raised concern because of the increased awareness of the impact of global warming on the intensity of Gulf-triggered hurricanes. Health and environmental concern has raised eyebrows since the 2010 Gulf oil spill and in 2009, the CF chemical plant in Donaldsonville was ranked the fourth largest polluter in Louisiana. Some of the hazardous chemicals in Louisiana are ammonia, nitrated compounds, methanol, zinc compounds, and copper compounds that are both dangerous to human life and the environment in general.

Louisiana houses over 14 major manufacturing companies including DuPont, Honeywell Specialty Chemicals, Lion Copolymer, Oxy, and Terra involved in the production of chemicals, plastics, fertilizers and other related products. The 85-mile stretch of the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as Cancer Alley comprises of steel pipes, cylinders and tanks as well as flames from burning flames and strange odors (Center for Environmental Health Web). Cancer Alley is a sign of serious pollution that has marred Louisiana especially the fine mists that fill the air. Louisiana is strategically located at the intersection of two navigable waterways, Donaldsonville is one of the towns surrounded by sugar cane fields, and chemical manufacturing plants that act as potential source of environmental health risk for the local residents (Schleifstein Web). Louisiana, which is also characterized by a large number of uneducated individuals and comprises of a population of approximately 70% African American is full of poverty and sickness.

Louisiana is among the leading states in production of toxic wastes and pollution of water, air, and soil because of chemical substances produced. It is indeed unfortunate that the residents of low income and ethnic minority experience serious environmental risks even though the chemical plants provide them with employment (Schleifstein Web). Balancing and perception of the residents about environmental health risk and the way they handle potential challenges of employment and industrial and agricultural polluters of environment. Louisiana residents face many problems ranging from the quality of water they drink especially people drinking water from Bayou Lafourche whose water contain harmful chemicals, have bad taste, and smells bad. Chemical release from plants have led to algae blooms covering water surface thus raising environmental concern and the need to thoroughly treat the water.

It is therefore clear that there are perceived health, epidemiology, and environmental issues in Louisiana because of its industrially structured environment. There are worst health problems in Louisiana such as premature deaths and rectal cancer cases compared to other states. Cancer rates in Louisiana are very high especially lung cancer amongst the residents living within a short distance of a chemical plant (Schleifstein Web). Toxic chemical exposure such as release of ethylene dichloride, hydrogen chloride and carcinogen vinyl chloride monomer have contributed to acute and broader health challenges and environmental contamination. Residents experience health problems such as breathing difficulties, aggravated asthma, skin inflammation and other significant respiratory problems. There many cancers related cases affecting the many African American men and women living in Louisiana.

Cancer Alley is an eighty-five mile stretch of the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans that got its name after numerous reports concerning cancer cases were reported in the entire area (Schleifstein Web). Rivers Parishes and the New Orleans act as source of more than 80% of Louisiana’s hazardous emissions that define the region, cancer alley. Cancer cases in cancer alley are comparable to the national level because of the many environmental causes and the fact that minorities suffer most from environmental exposure to harmful chemicals. Cancer Alley is mostly occupied by African American people of low income despite of many industrial facilities present in the area. The communities living in cancer alley have always tried to resist the pollution in the area that has contaminated both water and air thus causing cancer and other cancer related diseases (Center for Environmental Health Web).

Problem in Cancer Alley is enhanced by the Mississippi River that offers convenient transportation of materials and products as well as tax breaks provided by the Louisiana state thus attracting a swarm of industries (Cernansky Web). Apparently, creating a few jobs for the residents of Cancer Alley, predominantly African America is associated with suffering from disproportionate exposure to the environmental hazards caused by chemical waste released. Cancer cases reported in Cancer Alley are above the national average (Center for Environmental Health Web). There are also many other health problems such as asthma, neurological and inspiratory diseases as well as challenges of living near towering flare vents that make extraordinary noise and explode. Although the residents have constantly fought for justice through protest, filling lawsuit and lobbying governmental officials, very little has been done to address their plight.

Louisiana State may still attract many plants because of the natural resources such as water and other facilities including oil, water, and pipeline that enhance production (Schleifstein Web). Not all communities are treated equal even when it comes to health concerns in the U.S and Environmental regulation authorizes do not seem to benefit all the American society. Environmental pollution has turned out to be a daily affair where releasing toxic substances has become a daily affair. Although victims of environmental pollution raise issues with the chemical processing plants, very little is done to address the issue.

Works Cited

Center for Environmental Health 2010 Epidemiology/Toxicology. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.

Cernansky, Rachel. Cancer Alley: Big Industry & Bigger Illness Along Mississippi, 8 Feb. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>.

Environmental Protection Agency 2010 CF Industries, Inc. Donaldsonville Nitrogen Complex. TRI History of Reported Chemicals Released in Pounds per Year at Site. Web 20 Mar. 2014. <>.

Schleifstein, Mark. Louisiana refineries and associated chemical plants had higher air emissions from accidents in 2012, new report says. The Times-Picayune, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2014. <>.

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