174448 Environmental (In)justice in Port Arthur, Texas: A legacy of multiple impacts, cumulative risk, health disparities and socio-economic redlining

Tuesday, October 28, 2008: 8:50 AM

J. Sullivan , Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Hilton Kelley, Director: CIDA , Community In-Power & Development Association, Port Arthur, TX
Jonathan B. Ward, PhD , Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Port Arthur, in the upper Texas Gulf Coast, ranks in the top 10% of polluted U.S. communities in terms 1) chemical releases, 2) cancer risk, 3) recognized / suspected carcinogens, 4) developmental toxicants, 5) recognized reproductive toxicants. West Port Arthur is 91% African-American with 23% of the households having incomes = or < poverty level and unemployment at 14%.

Port Arthur shows various cumulative risk factors: 1) neighborhoods proximate to petrochemical complex; 2) a high load of emissions; 3) frequent industrial upsets, flaring, fires, 4) diesel particulates from transport, 5) absence of local health facilities; 6) lack of business / accessible county / city social services, 7) school closures, 8) high rates of asthma, respiratory distress, cancer, skin irritations.

Port Arthur recently received additions to its risk burden: 1) Shell / Motiva expansion of refinery capacity, 2) DoD / Veolia VX hydrolysate incineration, 3) severe damage from Hurricane Rita.

EPA's cumulative risk matrix - “Ensuring Risk Reduction in Communities with Multiple Stressors: Environmental Justice and Cumulative Risks / Impacts” - identifies Port Arthur as seriously in need of risk reduction based on: 1) vulnerability, 2) differential exposures, 3) differential preparedness, 4) differential abilities to recover, 5) health disparities. Vulnerability analysis includes: 1) density of facilities, 2) unique exposure pathways, 3) vulnerable populations / multiple exposures. EPA / NEJAC must institutionalize a Bias for Action to promote implementation of Executive EJ Order 12898 (1994) and effectively address environmental injustices in Port Arthur, and similar fence-line communities.

Learning Objectives:
Identify environmental toxicants and exposure pathways pathways unique to petrochemical fence-line communities. Describe factors contributing to special vulnerability of petrochemical fence-line populations. List environmental and social determinants of health stressors contributing to cumulative risk / impacts. Assess role of environmental factors and health disparities in contributing to cumulative risk. Recognize necessity of NEJAC bias for action to redress disproportionate environmental burdens of environmental justice communities. Evaluate the efforts of regulatory agencies and clinical health care providers in fence-line communities with reference to EJ mandate of Executive Order 12892.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Environmental Health Hazards

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked extensively with community - based environmental activists in this community on multiple impact / cumulative risk issues.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.