A recent study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology reveals that researchers, equipped with advanced air monitoring technology, have detected concentrations of a carcinogenic chemical in southeast Louisiana up to 20 times higher than previously thought. Conducted by Johns Hopkins University researchers, the study raises significant health concerns for communities residing near the industrialized corridor along the Mississippi River, often referred to as “cancer alley” due to its heavy concentration of chemical plants.

The chemical in question, ethylene oxide, is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a long-term cancer risk through inhalation. This stance contrasts with challenges from the chemical industry, while California categorizes ethylene oxide as known to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity.

The study underscores advancements in monitoring technology that offer more precise measurements of ethylene oxide and other pollutants. According to Pete DeCarlo, one of the researchers involved, traditional regulatory methods based on industry self-reporting may significantly underestimate actual exposure levels, as observed in the Louisiana study.

Using mobile laboratories equipped with real-time gas measurement instruments, the researchers collected data over a month-long period. Their findings consistently exceeded regulatory thresholds, prompting renewed calls for stricter pollution controls and heightened public health protections.

In response to the study, the EPA acknowledged the need for further review and reaffirmed its commitment under Administrator Michael Regan to safeguarding communities from toxic emissions.

The study’s findings are expected to inform ongoing debates and legal actions concerning industrial pollution in Louisiana’s vulnerable communities, emphasizing the importance of accurate pollutant measurements in assessing health risks associated with industrial facilities.