(August 25, Chalmette / New Orleans) The St. Bernard cancer epidemic, recently reported in a Tumor Registry study, has Chalmette residents demanding that the registry educate itself about the millions of pounds of carcinogenic pollution in their community. “We are concerned about the effects that Mobil’s chemicals could be having on us,” said Ken Ford, President of the St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality. “We are the neighbors of that refinery, and their emissions could cause cancer or illness.”
Exxon Mobil is currently being sued for violating the Clean Air Act, including leaking seals on benzene tanks. Benzene is a known carcinogen. “This latest study is one more reason why Chalmette should be considered a national toxic disaster area,” said Denny Larson of the Refinery Reform Campaign. “Not only are people being poisoned by illegal toxic dumping, but state agencies turn a blind eye to the real source of the problem.”
According to Exxon Mobil’s own reports, the refinery is the largest source of benzene, a known carcinogen, in St. Bernard Parish. Over the last 16 months, residents have detected benzene in ten air samples, taken when the wind was blowing a foul odor from the refinery to their neighborhood.
Three organizations – The St. Bernard Citizens for Environmental Quality, The Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Refinery Reform Campaign – have invited state epidemiologist Catherine Correa to meet with them to take a tour of the Chalmette neighborhoods battered by Exxon Mobil’s pollution.
Despite Ms. Correa’s initial statement that the Tumor Registry study did not determine causation, she later violated the tenant by claiming, without any factual documentation, that industry was not responsible for the increased cancer. “We are extremely concerned that a Louisiana public official is using her role to defend industry that dumps millions of pounds of cancer causing chemicals on innocent people,” said Anne Rolfes, Director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. “We hope to educate her with this tour. We will encourage her to retract her statement which has not been corroborated by any facts.”
The groups are sending an invitation letter to Ms. Correa today. “We would like to educate her and show our side of the story,” said Mr. Ford. “Many people who don’t live near Mobil make comments that Mobil is good to the neighbors. But the people in Chalmette Vista – the real neighbors right next door – disagree.”
Fine particulate matter is also a cause for concern. Such matter has been reported by the Journal of American Medicine to be associated with lung cancer mortality. Mobil’s fine petroleum coke dust, documented in the neighborhood by the Department of Environmental Quality, is a constant irritant. “We are tired of having Mobil’s soot all over our property and our homes,” said Mr. Ford. “What is it doing to our lungs?”