Sam Suds and the Case of PVC
The entire life cycle of PVC is an issue of environmental justice and racism. Many PVC plants are located near poor and communities of color. These facilities have poisoned workers and fence-line neighbors, polluted the air, contaminated drinking water supplies, and even wiped entire neighborhoods off the map.
I went on an environmental health delegation to Mossville, La., a few years ago and was absolutely blown away by the amount of industry in such a concentrated area. Air monitoring conducted by the EPA has shown that PVC plants have emitted concentrations of vinyl chloride, a human carcinogen, more than 120 times higher than the ambient air standard—making the air unhealthy to breathe. The plants have polluted this community so badly, a significant portion of Mossville families were forced to relocate. This area was literally a ghost town. All you could see was broken-down houses and places the federal government found the average Mossville resident has three times more dioxin [a highly toxic group of chemicals that build up in our bodies and the food chain, causing cancer and harm to the immune and reproductive systems] in their blood than the average U.S. citizen.
In addition, testing of breast milk from local mothers found elevated levels of dioxins as high as 30 percent above the national average. As a result, community members [past and present] suffer from all sorts of health problems."