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'Cancer Alley' Residents Sue DuPont

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'Cancer Alley' Residents Sue DuPont
Michael Toledano

Thirteen Louisiana residents who live in the shadow of one of the most toxic factories in the country recently filed a lawsuit against the facility's co-owners, DuPont and Denka, in an attempt to stop or reduce the production of an air pollutant linked to serious health problems, including cancer.

The plaintiffs are currently seeking approval from a local judge to file a class action lawsuit that would allow anyone who has lived, worked or attended school within a defined boundary around the plant over the past five years to take legal action against the plant's owners.


The plant, located along a stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge known as "Cancer Alley," has long been operated by DuPont, a notorious U.S.-based chemical company with a history of endangering public health and the environment. However, DuPont sold the majority of its stake in the facility to a subsidiary of the Japanese chemical giant Denka in 2015, though the company still owns part of the land.

Though some state and local political leaders have touted the plant as a success story and "a win" for the local community, many residents have become increasingly concerned with the plant's release of chloroprene, a chemical used in the manufacture of synthetic rubber, into the air.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listed chloroprene as a carcinogen, stating that exposure levels greater than 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air lead to an increased risk of cancer. They also found that short-term exposure to high levels of the chemical can cause headaches, dizziness, respiratory irritation, chest pain, hair loss, gastrointestinal disorders, rashes, corneal damage and fatigue.

"We are being killed by chemicals that the state is allowing Denka and DuPont to pollute our air with," Robert Taylor, founder of Concerned Citizens of St. John, told Julie Dermansky of DeSmog. "We are fighting for our lives, and our children's lives."

Residents have become even more vocal about the plant's chloroprene output after EPA data recorded in subsequent years revealed that emissions have, at times, reached up to 765 times the "upper limit of acceptability" set by the EPA.

More confirmation of the plant's dangerous output of carcinogenic pollutants came last December, when the EPA's National Air Toxic Assessment, which estimates exposure for 180 air toxins nationwide, found that residents living around the plant have the highest potential risk of cancer from airborne pollutants of any community in the country.

Then, in April, a preliminary report prepared by federal investigators found that the plant had violated the Clean Air Act an estimated 50 times. Just one month after the damning report, nearby residents were found to have been exposed to chloroprene at levels that were 12 to 58 times the legal limit.

Despite the federal government's consensus on the dangers of chloroprene and the high rate of exposure faced by residents, state regulators assert that no proof exists that shows "immediate" health risks near the plant, arguing that the long-term effects of chloroprene exposure are still not well-understood.

The plant's current operators have stressed that both companies that have operated the plant in recent years have done so in compliance with its air permits. Though true, these permitted emission levels were issued before the EPA's findings concerning chloroprene's carcinogenic properties.

This year, in the wake of increased concern about the plant's chloroprene production from federal regulators and local residents, Denka has hired government relations firm Bracewell LLP.

The lobbyists listed include Edward Krenik, a former EPA employee, and Scott Segal, a partner at a firm that has advised the Trump administration and endorsed Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Segal has worked with Pruitt in the past in attempts to reverse certain EPA regulations.

Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.

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An illustration depicts the extinct woolly rhino. Heinrich Harder / Wikimedia Commons

The last Ice Age eliminated some giant mammals, like the woolly rhino. Conventional thinking initially attributed their extinction to hunting. While overhunting may have contributed, a new study pinpointed a different reason for the woolly rhinos' extinction: climate change.

The last of the woolly rhinos went extinct in Siberia nearly 14,000 years ago, just when the Earth's climate began changing from its frozen conditions to something warmer, wetter and less favorable to the large land mammal. DNA tests conducted by scientists on 14 well-preserved rhinos point to rapid warming as the culprit, CNN reported.

"Humans are well known to alter their environment and so the assumption is that if it was a large animal it would have been useful to people as food and that must have caused its demise," says Edana Lord, a graduate student at the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, and co-first author of the paper, Smithsonian Magazine reported. "But our findings highlight the role of rapid climate change in the woolly rhino's extinction."

The study, published in Current Biology, notes that the rhino population stayed fairly consistent for tens of thousands of years until 18,500 years ago. That means that people and rhinos lived together in Northern Siberia for roughly 13,000 years before rhinos went extinct, Science News reported.

The findings are an ominous harbinger for large species during the current climate crisis. As EcoWatch reported, nearly 1,000 species are expected to go extinct within the next 100 years due to their inability to adapt to a rapidly changing climate. Tigers, eagles and rhinos are especially vulnerable.

The difference between now and the phenomenon 14,000 years ago is that human activity is directly responsible for the current climate crisis.

To figure out the cause of the woolly rhinos' extinction, scientists examined DNA from different rhinos across Siberia. The tissue, bone and hair samples allowed them to deduce the population size and diversity for tens of thousands of years prior to extinction, CNN reported.

Researchers spent years exploring the Siberian permafrost to find enough samples. Then they had to look for pristine genetic material, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

It turns out the wooly rhinos actually thrived as they lived alongside humans.

"It was initially thought that humans appeared in northeastern Siberia fourteen or fifteen thousand years ago, around when the woolly rhinoceros went extinct. But recently, there have been several discoveries of much older human occupation sites, the most famous of which is around thirty thousand years old," senior author Love Dalén, a professor of evolutionary genetics at the Center for Paleogenetics, said in a press release.

"This paper shows that woolly rhino coexisted with people for millennia without any significant impact on their population," Grant Zazula, a paleontologist for Canada's Yukon territory and Simon Fraser University who was not involved in the research, told Smithsonian Magazine. "Then all of a sudden the climate changed and they went extinct."

A large patch of leaked oil and the vessel MV Wakashio near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on Aug. 6, 2020. AFP via Getty Images

The environmental disaster that Mauritius is facing is starting to appear as its pristine waters turn black, its fish wash up dead, and its sea birds are unable to take flight, as they are limp under the weight of the fuel covering them. For all the damage to the centuries-old coral that surrounds the tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean, scientists are realizing that the damage could have been much worse and there are broad lessons for the shipping industry, according to Al Jazeera.

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A quality engineer examines new solar panels in a factory. alvarez / Getty Images

Transitioning to renewable energy can help reduce global warming, and Jennie Stephens of Northeastern University says it can also drive social change.

For example, she says that locally owned businesses can lead the local clean energy economy and create new jobs in underserved communities.

"We really need to think about … connecting climate and energy with other issues that people wake up every day really worried about," she says, "whether it be jobs, housing, transportation, health and well-being."

To maximize that potential, she says the energy sector must have more women and people of color in positions of influence. Research shows that leadership in the solar industry, for example, is currently dominated by white men.

"I think that a more inclusive, diverse leadership is essential to be able to effectively make these connections," Stephens says. "Diversity is not just about who people are and their identity, but the ideas and the priorities and the approaches and the lens that they bring to the world."

So she says by elevating diverse voices, organizations can better connect the climate benefits of clean energy with social and economic transformation.

Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.

The frozen meat section at a supermarket in Hong Kong, China, in February. Chukrut Budrul / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Imported frozen food in three Chinese cities has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but public health experts say you still shouldn't worry too much about catching the virus from food or packaging.

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This image of the Santa Monica Mountains in California shows how a north-facing slope (left) can be covered in white-blooming hoaryleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius), while the south-facing slope (right) is much less sparsely covered in a completely different plant. Noah Elhardt / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.5

By Mark Mancini

If weather is your mood, climate is your personality. That's an analogy some scientists use to help explain the difference between two words people often get mixed up.

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Flames from the Lake Fire burn on a hillside near a fire truck and other vehicles on Aug. 12, 2020 in Lake Hughes, California. Mario Tama / Getty Images

An "explosive" wildfire ignited in Los Angeles county Wednesday, growing to 10,000 acres in a little less than three hours.

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Although heat waves rarely get the attention that hurricanes do, they kill far more people per year in the U.S. and abroad. greenaperture / Getty Images

By Jeff Berardelli

Note: This story was originally published on August 6, 2020

If asked to recall a hurricane, odds are you'd immediately invoke memorable names like Sandy, Katrina or Harvey. You'd probably even remember something specific about the impact of the storm. But if asked to recall a heat wave, a vague recollection that it was hot during your last summer vacation may be about as specific as you can get.

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