In a sign of hope for Americans forced to live in polluted “Sacrifice Zones” throughout the country, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan recently visited some of these communities. Hopefully that will lead to meaningful action to protect the vulnerable residents in such communities.
I previously blogged about ProPublica’s work in highlighting communities throughout the country where the residents are particularly vulnerable to adverse health effects from the large quantities of industrial air pollution they are forcibly exposed to daily -- just by virtue of living near heavy industrial polluters. It appears ProPublica’s work has not been in vain since it seems to have gotten the attention of EPA officials. Last month, Administrator Regan visited “Cancer Alley” and other hotspot communities in Louisiana and Houston. Longtime residents believe this was the first time the nation’s top environmental regulator visited these areas.
ProPublica identified more than a thousand hot spots where cancer rates are substantially higher among the local population because of increased amounts of air and/or water pollution. Members of these communities typically live near oil refineries, coal-fired power plants and/or massive chemical plants. ProPublica’s work also helps show how the EPA underestimates the cancer risk people in these neighborhoods face through its failure to examine the cumulative dangers from these facilities since they are often located close to one another. Fortunately, the EPA seems to be taking notice advising ProPublica that it plans to be “very creative and entrepreneurial” in considering the cumulative health risks posed by industries located near one another.
Hopefully the EPA’s tour represents a lasting first step on the road to protecting those among us that are at a significantly increased risk of cancer and/or premature death from industrial polluters. In the meantime, if you want to research your community to find out whether you are living in a “Sacrifice Zone,” you can click here to access ProPublica’s research tool that will tell you about any risks to your community from air pollution. And if you believe your health has been harmed by living in a “Sacrifice Zone” you should contact an experienced law firm right away to explore your rights.