Investigative reporting from CNN has revealed that the Denka Performance Elastomer chemical plant in LaPlace, Louisiana is releasing a chemical so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says nearby residents face the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air toxicity.
While some places along the Mississippi River are dubbed “Louisiana Cancer Alley” because of numerous industrial plants coinciding with high rates of cancer, this area in LaPlace is at its heart. The Denka Performance Elastomer plant is the nation’s only producer of neoprene, a synthetic rubber that is found in everything from gaskets and hoses to fishing waders and wetsuits. It also emits 99% of the nation’s chloroprene pollution, according to the EPA.
In 2010, the EPA found that chloroprene is “likely carcinogenic to humans,” and various studies showed that the chemical was capable of causing cancer. Chloroprene exposure can not only cause cancer but also cause a myriad of health effects with both short- and long-term exposure. Direct inhalation of chloroprene can be deadly.
Per the EPA: “Chloroprene is a chemical used in the production of neoprene.” It presents itself as a colorless liquid with an Ether-like odor. Chloroprene is also classified as a likely carcinogen by several agencies, including the EPA. Carcinogens are substances capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
In 2010, the EPA identified chloroprene as a likely human carcinogen and provided a unit risk estimate. This means that chloroprene can cause cancer in living tissue and probably causes cancer in humans. Airborne exposure to chloroprene should be kept as low as possible. If the chemical exposure is evident on your skin, you are likely overexposed and should see a doctor as soon as possible.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not classified neoprene as a carcinogen, and using products that contain neoprene is unlikely to cause exposure to chloroprene, as the levels of chloroprene in most neoprene-containing products is very low.
If you are exposed to large amounts of chloroprene, it does not take long for the chemical to affect your health.
Short-term health effects chloroprene exposure include:
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