Environmental Justice & the PVC Chemical Industry


 

PVC plants are disproportionately located in low-income communities and communities of color, making the production of PVC an issue of environmental justice and racism for neighboring residents. PVC manufacturing facilities have poisoned workers and fenceline neighbors, polluted the air, contaminated drinking water supplies, and even wiped entire communities off the map.

PVC Chemical Plants Pollute Our Air

PVC Chemical Plants Foul Our Water

PVC Fenceline Communities Demolished & Wiped Off the Map

Workers Exposed to Highly Toxic Chemicals

The Vinyl Industry Kept the Workers and the Government in the Dark about the Health Risks of Manufacturing PVC

Mossville, Louisiana & Environmental Racism

Mossville, Louisiana is a historic African American community nestled amid an alarming number of PVC production facilities. It is the vinyl manufacturing capital of America, as the Calcasieu Parish region, is home to more PVC chemical plants than anywhere else in the country. A 1999 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found vinyl chloride levels in ambient air greater than 100 times the state air quality standard xxvi. Companies located in the area (Georgia Gulf, Conoco Phillips, Entergy, PPG Industries, and Sasol) have reported releasing dioxins, a cancer-causing, highly toxic group of chemicals, according to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory xxvii. Independent studies have confirmed groundwater is threatened by liquid toxic leachate, and there are contaminated fish, vegetables, and fruit in the area.xxviii

The health and well being of Mossville residents has been harmed with elevated rates of disease. Studiesby the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found alarming results — residents had more than three times the national average of dioxins in their blood, elevated dioxins in breast milk, and high cancer mortality rates .xxix A university study found Mossville residents were two to three times more likely to suffer from health problems, including a high incidence of ear, nose, and throat illnesses, central nervous system disturbances, and cardiovascular problems, as well as increased skin, digestive, immune, and endocrine disorders.xxx

Ever determined to reclaim their lives, Mossville residents have fought back against the polluters and had real results, including winning relocation for many families due to a 1994 Condea Vista spill of one million pounds of ethylene dichloride that caused well water contamination.xxxi Mossville citizens also successfully advocated at the national level, achieving a 2005 U.S. Court of Appeals decision to change outdated and ineffective EPA emissions standards for vinyl chloride plants.xxxii Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN) brought the first ever environmental human rights legal challenge against the U.S. Government that is being reviewed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. More recently, MEAN compiled data from the USEPA and ATSDR and found 77% of the mixture of dioxin compounds released by the Georgia Gulf PVC plant were the same dioxin compounds that made up 77% of the dioxins detected in the blood of Mossville residents. This finding shows that residents are accumulating the same mixture of dioxin compounds being released from the Georgia Gulf PVC plant and this mixture includes the most toxic forms of dioxin. xxxiii

Next time you pick up that PVC backpack or look at the PVC flooring in your children’s school, think about communities such as Mossville, Louisiana where these products are created.

 

What Can I Do? Take Action for Healthy PVC-Free Schools

Safer and cost-effective alternatives are already available for virtually every PVC product in our nation’s schools. Here’s how you can help today:

 

References

i Earthjustice. 2008. “Groups head to court to seek protection from PVC plant pollution.” Press Release. October 22. Online: http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/2008/groups-head-to-court-to-seek-protection-from-pvc-plant-pollution.html (21 October 2009).

ii Thornton, J. 2002. Environmental impacts of polyvinyl chloride building materials – A Healthy Building Network report. Washington, DC: Healthy Building Network. Online: http://www.healthybuilding.net/pvc/Thornton_Enviro_Impacts_of_PVC.pdf(21 October 2009).

iii U.S. Department of Justice. 2009. “Formosa Plastics agrees to resolve multiple environmental violations at plants in Texas and Louisiana.” Press Release. September 29. Online: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/formosa-plastics-agrees-to-resolve-multiple-environmental-violations-at-plants-in-texas-and-louisiana-62715462.html (21 October 2009).

iv Greenemeier, L. 2008. “PVC producer fined $12 million for environmental damage.” Scientific American, December 2. Online: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/60-second-science/post.cfm?id=pvc-producer-fined-12-million-for-e-2008-12-02 (21 October 2009).

v Montgomery, J. Del. City plant named in pollution lawsuit. The News Journal, October 2. Online: http://www.besafenet.com/pvc/news/archives/2008/10/october_23_-_de.htm (21 October 2009).

vi Cimitile, M. 2009. “A toxic home on the range?” Environmental Health News, March 9. Online: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/toxic-home-on-the-range (21 October 2009).

vii Chemistry and Industry. 1997. “Condea Vista punished over leaks.” Online: http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-20205376/condea-vista-punished-over.html (21 October 2009).

viii Lewis, S. 1999. Formosa Plastics – A briefing paper on waste, safety and financial issues including U.S. campaign finance abuses. Waverly, MA. ix Alliance for a Clean Environment. 2008. “Why get involved?” Stowe, PA. Online: http://www.acereport.org/oxy3.html (21 October 2009).

x Lewis, S. 1999. Formosa Plastics – A briefing paper on waste, safety and financial issues including U.S. campaign finance abuses. Waverly, MA.

xi United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. 1998. From plantations to plants: Report of the Emergency National Commission of Environmental and Economic Justice in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Cleveland, OH. September 15. Online: http://www.ejrc.cau.edu/convent_report.html (21 October 2009).

xii Bragg, R. 2003. “Toxic water numbers days of a trailer park.” The New York Times, May 5. Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/05/us/toxic-water-numbers-days-of-a-trailer-park.html?pagewanted=all (21 October 2009).

xiii United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. 1998. From plantations to plants: Report of the Emergency National Commission of Environmental and Economic Justice in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Cleveland, OH. September 15. Online: http://www.ejrc.cau.edu/convent_report.html (21 October 2009).

xiv United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. 1998. From plantations to plants: Report of the Emergency National Commission of Environmental and Economic Justice in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Cleveland, OH. September 15. Online: http://www.ejrc.cau.edu/convent_report.html (21 October 2009).

xv ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). 1995. Toxicological profile for Vinyl Chloride (update). Washington, DC: U.S. Public Health Service. And 1993. Toxicological profile for 1,2-Dichloroethane. Washington, DC: U.S. Public Health Service.

xvi National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. 2000a. NTPCERHR Expert Panel Report on Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

xvii Creech, J. and M. Johnson. 1974. Angiosarcoma of liver in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride. Journal of Occupational Medicine 16: 150-151.

xviii Lewis, R. et al. 2002. A case-control study of angiosarcoma of the liver and brain cancer at a polymer production plant. Journal of Occupational Medicine 45: 538-545.

xixxix Mastrangelo, G. 2003. Lung cancer risk in workers exposed to poly(vinyl chloride) dust: A nested case-referent study. Occupational and Environmental Medicine 60: 423-428.

xx Gennaro, V. et al. 2003. Reanalysis of mortality in a petrochemical plant producing vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride. Epidemiologia E Prevenzione 27: 221-225.

xxi Gennaro, V. et al. 2003. Reanalysis of mortality in a petrochemical plant producing vinyl chloride and polyvinyl chloride. Epidemiologia E Prevenzione 27: 221-225.

xxii Thornton, J. 2002. Environmental impacts of polyvinyl chloride building materials – A Healthy Building Network report. Washington, DC: Healthy Building Network. Online: http://www.healthybuilding.net/pvc/Thornton_Enviro_Impacts_of_PVC.pdf(21 October 2009).

xxiii Steingraber, S. 2005. “The pirates of Illiopolis.” Orion Magazine, May / June. Online: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/153/ (21 October 2009).

xxiv U.S. Chemical Safety Board. 2007. “CSB issues final report and safety video on Formosa Plastics explosion in Illinois, concludes that company and previous owner did not adequately plan for consequences of human error,” Press Release, March 6.

xxvThe Environmental Working Group. “Chemical industry archives – vinyl chloride.” Online: http://www.chemicalindustryarchives.org/dirtysecrets/vinyl/1.asp (21 October 2009).

xxvi Subra, W. 2002. Environmental impacts in communities adjacent to PVC production facilities. New Iberia, LA: Subra Company. Online: http://www.pvcinformation.org/links/go.php?linkid=76&catid=1 (21 October 2009).

xxvii U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2001. Toxic Release Inventory. As cited in Mossville Environmental Action Now. July 2007. Industrial sources of dioxin poisoning in Mossville, Louisiana: A report based on the government’s own data. Mossville Environmental Action Now. Online: http://www.ehumanrights.org/media_reports_mossville.html (21 October 2009).

xxviii Mossville Environmental Action Now. 2007. Industrial sources of dioxin poisoning in Mossville, Louisiana: A report based on the government’s own data. Mossville, LA: Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, July. Online: http://www.ehumanrights.org/media_reports_mossville.html (21 October 2009).

xxix Mossville Environmental Action Now. 2007. Industrial sources of dioxin poisoning in Mossville, Louisiana: A report based on the government’s own data. Mossville, LA: Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, July. Online: http://www.ehumanrights.org/media_reports_mossville.html (21 October 2009).

xxxi Zilbert, B. 2000. Breathing poison: the toxic costs of industries in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. Mossville Environmental Action Network. Online: http://www.mapcruzin.com/mossville/reportondioxin.htm (21 October 2009).

xxxi Louisiana Bucket Brigade. 2001. Birds of prey: Conoco, Condea Vista, and PPG feeding off of Mossville and Calasieu Parish. New Orleans, LA: Coming Clean Campaign. Online: http://www.pvcinformation.org/assets/pdf/birdsofprey.pdf (21 October 2009).

xxxii Environmental News Service. 2005. “EPA must rewrite plastic factories’ emission standards.” April 25. Online: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2005/2005-04-25-09.asp#anchor2 ((21 October 2009).

xxxiii Mossville Environmental Action Now. 2007. Industrial sources of dioxin poisoning in Mossville, Louisiana: A report based on the government’s own data. Mossville, LA: Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, July. Online: http://www.ehumanrights.org/media_reports_mossville.html (21 October 2009).