The Houston Ship Channel is home to one of the largest petrochemical complexes in the world. Giant tanks hold undeniably toxic chemicals which are made or used by the manufacturing facilities there.
As reported a week ago by The New York Times, recent assessments conducted by Houston city officials and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agreed that residents living within a 2-mile radius of this petrochemical vortex were at increased risk of developing leukemia and other cancers, among other harms.
Further, a study based on federal records and prepared by the advocacy organization Earthjustice reveals that over the last decade more than 1 million pounds of key toxic chemicals have been released into the atmosphere over one neighborhood alone, Deer Park.
At least 100,000 U.S. citizens, mostly in Texas and Louisiana, are sustaining regular exposure to these harmful toxicities. “Sacrifice zones,” noted the founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, a group that sued the EPA in 2020 for tighter restrictions on toxic emissions.
Proposed air quality regulations
The Biden administration has proposed tightened restrictions on fine particulate matter known as PM2.5. The EPA unveiled these rules in January of this year. And in mid-April, the president signed an executive order making environmental justice the responsibility of every single federal agency.
Predictably, powerful entities in the manufacturing sector are not taking this lying down. They’re pushing back, claiming that the tougher air quality standards will cost manufacturers $90-200 billion and put 500,000 to a million jobs at risk. They argue companies will be forced to downsize, relocate or shut down operations, which will undercut future investments.
These same powerful entities have also advanced competing medical studies that cast doubt on causation of harm, asserting that the medical claims made by environmental groups are overwrought, that cancer is complicated and can be caused by many factors.
In some cases, the injured are able to recover compensation for their damages when they have been harmed by toxic chemicals.