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U.S. “Sacrifice Zones” - Are you Living in One?

U.S. “Sacrifice Zones” - Are you Living in One?

An estimated 256,000 Americans are currently living in parts of the United States in which air pollution-caused rates of cancer exceed the government’s own level of “acceptable” risk. People who live in these areas of the country die of cancer and other air pollution caused illnesses at higher rates and in shorter timeframes than others that live even just a few miles away. Air pollution experts call these parts of the country “Sacrifice Zones.” The EPA is aware of them, but, most often, the people living within these zones are unaware of the risks to their health.

Thankfully, recent research and reporting by ProPublica is beginning to shine a light on these toxic communities. ProPublica’s work has identified upwards of 1,000 “Sacrifice Zones” throughout the United States. These zones are typically found in communities near factories, refineries or military facilities where hazardous gases like benzene, chloropene, ethylene oxide, and dioxin are regularly released into the air and where incidences of air pollution-caused cancer exceed the EPA’s 1 in 10,000 upper limit of acceptable risk. While industry is required to report its emission to the government, ProPublica’s work finds these figures are chronically reported as being lower than they actually are. ProPublica’s work also finds that, even when the data is accurately reported, the EPA often fails to use the information to clearly inform members of the public about the risks to their health from the quality of the air they are breathing or take any serious action to curb these emissions.

ProPublica’s work reveals that many of these “Sacrifice Zones” can be found in the Texas and Louisiana petrochemical corridor known as “Cancer Alley.” However, these Zones can be found throughout the country, including in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and, as anyone who has grown up in the Ohio Valley would likely guess, West Virginia. Meanwhile, Americans remain largely in the dark about these threats until it is far too late, often mistakenly trusting their government to offer the most basic protection for human life.

Are you being sacrificed in the name of business profits? ProPublica has produced a helpful resource to check whether you’re in a “Sacrifice Zone” by clicking here. 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.


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