Connect with us


UN rights experts urge end to environmental racism in Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley’



LOUISIANA – UN human rights experts called on US officials to end environmental racism in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” on Tuesday, citing concerns over future development plans that could double the already elevated risk of cancer for area residents.

Cancer Alley, which encompasses most of the St. James Parish, gets its name from the increased levels of cancer caused by the nearly 150 oil refineries, plastic plants and other polluters that line the banks of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

In 2018 the St. James Parish Council approved plans for three new facilities, including one plastic plant owned by Taiwanese plastic giant Formosa and two methanol facilities. The US Army Corps of Engineers suspended permits for the Formosa complex last November, but if the plan goes forward, it will be one of the largest plastic production plants in the world. This facility alone will double the cancer risks in the area.

The impact of this pollution disproportionately affects Black residents that make up nearly 50 percent of St. James Parish. The UN report states that cancer risks to Black residents “could be at 104 and 105 cases per million, while those threats in predominantly white districts range from 60 to 75 per million.”

Cancer Alley’s destruction of Black communities perpetuates the area’s legacy of racism and oppression. Before becoming an industrial hub, the region was known as Plantation Country because of the sugar cane farms where enslaved people were oppressed. Today, their descendants live in the shadows of refineries that poison their air.

The UN human rights experts said, “The African American descendants of the enslaved people who once worked the land are today the primary victims of deadly environmental pollution that these petrochemical plants in their neighbourhoods have caused.” They called on US officials to increase corporate accountability in order to further environmental justice.