Air of Uncertainty: Effects of Denka emissions on school children

Air of Uncertainty: Effects of Denka emissions on school children

LAPLACE, LA (WVUE) - The Department of Health released a new study that says a cancerous emission at the Denka plant in LaPlace is decreasing. But in a parish that has seen higher cancer rates, parish leaders wanted to know the effects the emissions have on the children. Researchers and residents disagree on the findings.

It's summertime, which means kids are generally out enjoying the summer air. But not near the Denka plant.

A mother who didn't want to be identified says she and her family have lived near the Denka plant, and they've suffered.

"You don't want your children to come outside and play because of what they're breathing in - you don't know what they're breathing. She's been sick quite often and missed quite a bit of school," she said.

Researchers at the department of health say they've noticed a decreasing level of chloroprene since 2016.

"The risk of cancer living next to a gas station is about the same as the risk of living next to Denka," said Dr. Jimmy Guidry with the health department.

Chloroprene is the same element that's been found in Denka emissions and linked to cancer. Researchers took air sample levels from mobile labs and compared the levels of areas near East St. John High School, which is the furthest from the plant, and Fifth Ward Elementary School, which is the closest.

According to the report, moving children further from the plant within the community would not greatly decrease their risk of developing cancer because of the chloroprene.

"We're pushing for the company to try to reach EPA's requirement so that's the number we're shooting for, but the numbers we're seeing right now make me feel the children will be ok, especially if we continue to reduce emission," said Guidry.

Guidry says it's up to the school system to make the decision: Is it worth the risk?

"My experts, they say moving the school down the road would not reduce the risk near as much as reducing the emission," said Guidry.

Denka released the following statement:

"Denka Performance Elastomer's primary concern is the safety and health of our employees and neighbors and stewardship of the environment. There is no evidence to suggest our operations pose any increased risk of health impacts to our surrounding community, and in fact existing scientific studies, including a long-term study of several major chloroprene production sites in the United States and Europe and workers from our LaPlace facility, and health studies compiled by the state of Louisiana clearly show there are no increased risks of health impacts related to chloroprene.

FOX 8 reached out to the school system about the findings. They did not return a request for comment.

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