What? Is there really a cancer-causing 'hot spot' in Longview, Texas?

Almost everyone has been affected by cancer in some way.

Whether you yourself have found yourself in this battle or perhaps it has been someone you love. I lost my dad to cancer back in 2011. I would do anything to eradicate it from our lives forever.

We've heard time and time again about the various causes of cancer. Thus, you're likely not surprised to hear that "industrial facilities" that deal with chemicals or toxic fumes are contributors.

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Are you familiar with ProPublica? On their website, they are described as "a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power."

Well, they completed a five-year analysis that revealed just how MUCH these industrial facilities may be contributing to the type of pollution that can truly cause harm to those in these "hot spots."

They state this on their website:

ProPublica’s analysis of five years of modeled EPA data identified more than 1,000 toxic hot spots across the country and found that an estimated 250,000 people living in them may be exposed to levels of excess cancer risk that the EPA deems unacceptable.

And one of those toxic hot spots is right here in East Texas. Longview, Texas to be specific.

How toxic is this hot spot in Longview?

Well, the severity of the risk can be affected by things like weather and proximity. But overall they say the risk at "this location has an estimated excess lifetime cancer risk from industrial sources of about 1 in 140, or 72 times the EPA's acceptable risk."

That is not the news we want to hear regarding one of our own East Texas cities. 

As you delve deeper into the study, you'll find their assessment showing Eastman Chemical Company accountable for about 99.6% of the estimated increased cancer risk in this 'hot spot.'

What particular carcinogens are being emitted?

According to ProPublica's assessment, the emissions causing such an increased risk are composed of " Ethylene oxideChloroformButadiene, 1,3- and 10 more carcinogens. 

KLTV did reach out for comment from Eastman Chemical last year in response to this new analysis. This was their response:

Protecting air quality is an essential aspect of Eastman’s environmental program. We take our commitment to operating responsibly very seriously. Most of our Longview site employees live within a few miles of the site. As such, the impact of our operations on human health and the environment is personal to us, because decisions we make every day and over our lifetime can impact our families and friends.

We recognize that our Longview manufacturing facility is located in an area identified as having greater risks based on EPA's Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model. We also know that not all risk is due to industrial activity, however, we continue to do our part to reduce risk and emissions to ensure the safety of our local community. For example, when the EPA issued its National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) in 2018 that identified our Longview Texas Operations facility as one needing further evaluation for ethylene oxide (EO) emissions, we reviewed and refined our EO emissions with an emphasis on precision instead of conservatism. This effort included using the most recent stack testing data for process vents and obtaining up-to-date stream compositions and flows to calculate more accurate emissions estimates.

We provided these revised emissions inventory reports to the Texas Council of Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The revised emissions estimates are approximately 50% lower than those used in the 2018 NATA, and the EO emissions from our Longview facility are below the level the TCEQ determined may pose an unacceptable risk. Our compliance assurance programs continue to show that current EO emissions at our Longview site do not pose an elevated risk to our team or the surrounding community. Nevertheless, we are actively evaluating ways to further reduce our EO emissions at this site. We presented this information publicly in a community meeting hosted by EPA in August.

Additionally, we practice the highest standards of industrial hygiene and medical monitoring to ensure the safety of our employees. We routinely conduct industrial hygiene surveys for those working in EO-specific plant areas, and EO operations personnel receive annual wellness physicals. While the surveys and medical screenings are not required by law, we conduct them voluntarily and are pleased to report that for the last 50 years, these EO examinations and surveys have revealed no areas of concern.

Amanda Allman, Eastman Corporate Communications
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