U.S. sues chemical company over cancer risk to Louisiana community


Federal officials sued a chemical maker last week, alleging that its plant presents an unacceptable cancer risk to a nearby majority-black south Louisiana community and demanding that it cuts its toxic emissions, reports The Associated Press.

Denka Performance Elastomer LLC makes synthetic rubber at a plant in Reserve, roughly 50 miles from Baton Rouge in St. John the Baptist Parish. According to the federal complaint, Denka’s facility emits the carcinogen chloroprene and other chemicals in such high concentrations that it poses an unacceptable cancer risk.

The former DuPont plant has reduced its emissions over time, but the Justice Department, suing on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, says the plant still represents “an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and welfare,” including elevated cancer risks.

“The company has not moved far enough or fast enough to reduce emissions or ensure the safety of the surrounding community,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan says in a statement.

Denka, a Japanese company that bought the rubber-making plant in 2015, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. A company spokesperson said in September that advocates described a crisis that “simply does not exist.”

Denka’s facility makes neoprene used to produce common goods such as wetsuits, laptop sleeves, orthopedic braces and automotive belts and hoses. Chloroprene is a liquid raw material used to produce neoprene. Read more.