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A number of publications in Louisiana ran a piece recently using a quote from President Joe Biden that made an off-handed reference to “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana.

Where the president got the information or how he decided it was worth mentioning in his speech is something I do not know. But what I can say, unequivocally, is that the notion of industrial production creating a “Cancer Alley” in Louisiana is false.

For many years, headlines have tried to link Louisiana’s poor health rankings to the state’s Industrial Corridor, an area of the lower Mississippi River that is home to the state’s strong chemical, refining and manufacturing economy. This insinuation has gone on for so long and become so ingrained in the fabric of Louisiana’s news media that the area has become routinely, and incorrectly, called “Cancer Alley.”

Environmental activist groups claim those who live in the parishes in Louisiana’s Industrial Corridor are more likely to develop cancer and other health-related issues than the rest of the state. But is it really true? Decades of data compiled by the Louisiana Tumor Registry (LTR) – a statewide registry of cancer incidences administered by LSU’s School of Public Health – shows there is no “Cancer Alley.”

Louisiana faces many health challenges as a state, including higher cancer incidence compared with the rest of the country. But it isn’t related to industrial activity. In fact, rates of cancer in the Industrial Corridor on the whole are even with or below those in the rest of the state. The science is clear: the “Cancer Alley” moniker is unwarranted.

Further, the 2020 County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found parishes in the Industrial Corridor have some of the best overall health outcomes compared with the rest of the state.

So, why are Louisiana’s cancer rates higher, and what can we do about them? According to federal health data, a long list of lifestyle and family history factors influence whether a person is at risk for cancer. Environmental exposure ranks near the bottom of that list. In every measure of contributing risk factors – things such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and access to health care – Louisiana largely ranks worse than the national average.

Let’s work together to find sustainable solutions that do not devastate Louisiana’s economy. Industry’s contribution to the state is undeniable. It contributes 26% of the state’s income, employs one in every seven people and pays for at least four of every 10 public school teachers.

We have been listening to the governor’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, and we agree with its findings: more must be done to ensure health care access and accurate information for all Louisiana residents. It’s past time to stop talking about a fictional “Cancer Alley” and instead work to address the real challenges we face as a state. We want all Louisiana communities to be healthy and prosperous. Anything we can do to achieve that together is a win for everyone.

Greg Bowser is the president and CEO of the Louisiana Chemical Association.

(2) comments

margidag

Hi Mr. Bowser, I do not think the claim in your title is fair. The EPA's National Air Toxics Assessment showed Reserve and the surrounding area to have the highest risk of cancer (due to air pollution) in the country, over 50 times the national average (see https://www.epa.gov/national-air-toxics-assessment/2011-nata-assessment-results). We also know that the Denka plant is the only emitter of chloroprene in the US and that it emits chloroprene at levels much higher than the EPA guidelines (which, I know, are just recommendations...but they are recommended for a reason). I see you referenced a study by LSU but you only say that it supports your conclusion and not what that study shows. This makes it hard hard to evaluate.

Also, I noticed that you are President of the Louisiana Chemical Association. Your under supported conclusion that current pollution levels are not a concern is consistent with your financial interests, and I hope other readers take note of that as well.

AshleyMoon

This "opinion" piece is an outright lie.

It is totally and completely and utterly disingenuous.

It is a bad faith argument.

The IARC---that it---the International Agency for Research of Cancer--which is of the highest scientific authority as an arm of the WHO, classified Industrial Air Pollution as a Group 1 Carcinogen--the highest risk class for carcinogens!

If toxic air pollution is deemed by an international body of scientific experts to be cancerous to humans, that includes humans in Louisiana!

It is ONLY in Louisiana, where political corruption runs rampant, that politicians have the gall to claim otherwise.

The fact is, the LA Tumor Registry is actually the truth---the officials behind it have refused to release the disaggregated data.

The data is aggregated by parish, and St James Parish contains 5 predominantly white districts on one side of the Missisppi River, that are not saturated with industrial plants, and 2 predominatly Black parishes on the other side of the river that are. If the Tumor Registry would release the data by District, we would see higher cancer rates in Black communities closer to the plants.

But so long as they refuse to release the data by District, parish level analyses will continue to obscure the pattern.

Environmental Racism refers to government policies that disproportionately harm minorities.

And Cancer Alley is a textbook case.

The head of the Louisiana Chemical Assocation is paid to lie---to say anything that supports the interests of the industry he represents--regardless of the truth.

The truth is, they know their products cause cancer--they are simply paid to deny it.

Why? Profit.

Harming minorities to make a profit it Enviornmental Racism full stop.

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