Hispanic Residents In Houston Neighborhood Located Near Industrial Sites Developing Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture
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The Chicago Tribune on Sunday looked at how residents living near Houston Ship Channel, Houston's "most toxic industrial zone" and the largest concentration of petrochemical plants in the U.S., have a higher risk of cancer than residents living farther away. Ninety percent of the residents of affected neighborhoods are Hispanic, the Tribune reports.

A University of Texas School of Public Health study released earlier this year found that children living within two miles of the Houston Ship Channel, which has "dozens of oil refineries, petrochemical plants and waste disposal sites," are 56% more likely to develop acute lymphocytic leukemia than children living farther away. Epidemiologists associate the risk with some of the pollutants released by petrochemical plants.

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Some environmental experts attribute Houston's problem to a national trend called "environmental racism," in which hazardous polluting industries routinely are located closer to minority neighborhoods than white ones, according to the Tribune.

Houston Mayor Bill White is seeking to expand Houston's nuisance laws to impose fines on plants that do not reduce their toxic emissions. Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has established limits for many of the toxic air pollutants linked to increased cancer rates, the Tribune reports.

The petrochemical industry says many sites voluntarily have reduced emissions and, in some cases, the factories were built before the communities that began to surround them. Rosalia Guerrero-Luera, community outreach coordinator for Houston-based Mothers for Clean Air, said, "It's very easy for industry and the politicians to wear down these communities because they don't believe they have a right to anything better, and many people are afraid to come forward and complain." She added, "This will affect these children living here for their whole lives" (Witt, Chicago Tribune, 7/29).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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