Thursday, June 03, 2010

CNN: "Toxic Towns USA" examines PVC, dioxin contamination in a small Louisiana town

On Wednesday June 2 CNN featured Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosting a home hour documentary “Toxic Towns USA” as part of “Toxic America”, focusing on Mossville, Louisiana, an unincorporated and largely African-American community near Lake Charles, LA in Calcasieu Parish. The town does not show up in the World Book Encyclopedia or in the index of standard road atlases.

The May 27 entry on CNN’s own blogger site here describes the show. Much of it focuses on the activities of chemist Wilma Subra and long term resident Dorothy Felix, to expose the risks to residents from nearby petrochemical plants (as from companies such as Sasol), especially from dioxins and polyvinvylchlorides used in plastics, which we depend on. Wilma was faced with threats and her office (a long distance from Mossville) was shot at. Both women and Gupta tried to get in to see LA governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana agencies, but were kept out. The EPA Superfund may eventually help with a cleanup.

The inadequacy of the supervision from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSRD) of the Centers for Disease Control was mentioned (link ).

Dioxin is associated with the defoliant Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam war. The CNN report focused on long term cancer and health risk due to slow accumulation of dioxin or PVC’s in various internal organs (including the liver and pancreas), which shows up in areas that have been contaminated by industry or government.

Mossville was mentioned in a 2002 documentary film “Blue Vinvyl” which I have ordered from Netflix.

Another town affected by dioxin contamination was Times Beach, MO (less than 20 miles S of St; Louis), which was relocated and bulldozed in 1983.  So petrochemcial or environmental contamination can have catastrophic consequences for a town.

It's not clear that the current oil spill in the Gulf could force evacuation of small coastal bayou towns, beyond destroying the fishing and tourist economies of these towns. The draining of the marsh has made it more vulnerable not only to hurricanes but also to environmental pollution.

Wikipedia attribution link for polyvinylchloride diagram.

See also my coordinated review "Blue Vinvyl" (2002) on the movies blog on June 10, 2010.

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