"The E.P.A. found that a small town in Louisiana was overloaded with carcinogens. Why didn’t that mean the government had to act?"
"Not long after President Trump took office, I visited a small neighborhood in Louisiana. A half-hour from New Orleans, St. John the Baptist is a rectangle of modest homes bounded by the Mississippi River on one side and a large factory on another. For years, the people living there felt they had suffered a disproportionate share of health problems, including immune disorders, respiratory distress, headaches, heart troubles and cancers.
As an environmental reporter, I know how hard it is to definitively tie a community’s health complaints to its surroundings. Even when there is severe suffering and a seemingly obvious culprit, it’s often impossible to pin blame on any single cause. But in St. John, the case had already been precisely made by the very entity that had the power to change it. At the end of 2015, a report from the Environmental Protection Agency showed that the census tract in St. John had by far the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the nation. Nationwide the risk of cancer from chemicals emitted by industrial facilities was about 30 for every million people. But in this small neighborhood, it was more than 800."