HOUSTON (Jan. 20, 2021) — Residents of Northeast Houston are calling on the company responsible for decades of creosote contamination in their community to move them out of harm’s way after the state of Texas found high numbers of childhood cancers.
The Department of State Health Services’ findings come 13 months after it identified 10 census tracts in Houston’s 5th Ward and Kashmere Gardens, with greater-than-expected incidences of adult cancers of the lung, esophagus, and throat. It was the first time the state had identified a cancer cluster in the Houston city limits. While there have been other updates since, the state’s most recent report reveals that the observed number of childhood cancer cases, specifically acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is significantly higher than expected, particularly in one of the two census tracts above the creosote plume.
“It’s not just the adults being harmed, but our children as well, by this cancer-causing pollution,” Fifth Ward resident and IMPACT spokesperson Andre West said. “The study again showed what we already knew: that Union Pacific brought these deadly toxic carcinogenic chemicals into our community, causing hundreds of deaths and destroying a vibrant community with the loss of fathers, mothers, grandparents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and now our children.”
“This is a further demonstration that the Fifth Ward is an environmental justice community in dire need of resources to address health inequities. This might look like more medical clinics, targeted health screenings, and further studies into the cause of this cancer cluster,” says Rodrigo Cantu, the Lone Star Legal AId staff attorney representing IMPACT.
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IMPACT is a Houston group of current and former residents of the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens encouraging neighbors to speak out against environmental injustice that the area has endured. Residents have been calling on Union Pacific to clean up the legacy creosote contamination in their neighborhood that dates back decades. They have advocated for a comprehensive, thorough cleanup of the creosote, which has been used in the past to treat wooden railroad ties. That creosote has seeped into the soil, creating a hazardous plume that has moved, uncontrolled, beneath at least 110 private properties including homes and churches.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.
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