Sharon Lavigne knows some 30 people who have died in and around her tiny parish of St. James, Louisiana , in just the past five years. She buried two close friends this past weekend — one died of cancer, the other heart disease. Two of her brothers have cancer, and her boyfriend of 17 years died of COPD, a respiratory disease linked to air pollution and chemical fumes, in 2013. He was "vibrant and healthy," she says, until a pipeline company expanded its operations next to his home, adding millions more gallons of crude oil storage tanks. "It was the pollution that killed him," Lavigne says. This is life in "Cancer Alley," an 85-mile stretch along the banks of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where industry leaders like ExxonMobil, Koch, and Shell operate about 150 fossil fuel and petrochemical facilities. Seven of the 10 census tracts with the highest cancer risk in the nation are found here. The exceptionally elevated toxic air emissions released by the industry are linked to a host of ailments, from cancer to cardiovascular and respiratory disease to reproductive and developmental disorders. And in St. James, toxic facilities are increasingly concentrated in areas with the… Read full this story
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