June 19, 2024

Honoring Juneteenth: Fighting for Environmental Justice in Louisiana's Cancer Alley

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, and today we highlight the ongoing struggles of environmental injustices experienced in Black communities living in Louisiana. 

In St. John the Baptist Parish and St. James Parish, Louisiana, located in America’s infamous “Cancer Alley,” residents face a cancer rate 7-8 times higher than the national average. This is largely because homes and schools are adjacent to manufacturing facilities producing chemicals that are carcinogenic, like chloroprene, a toxic chemical used to make a wide variety of consumer products including vinyl flooring. 

Despite recent EPA regulation aimed at reducing toxic pollutants nationwide, advocacy groups say the legislation still puts children at risk as chemical facilities work towards meeting EPA requirements.

“Fenceline monitoring would have to begin at most facilities within one year after the rule is final. Most facilities would have two years after the rule is final to meet requirements for [ethylene oxide] and chloroprene; and three years to meet requirements that resulted from EPA’s technology review.” EPA spokesperson Shayla Powell. 

The community is advocating for their children to be moved to safer schools now, in a location farther away from the chemical plants.

Their fight for a healthier environment is a reminder that freedom and equality go far beyond milestone legislation — there must also be a fundamental shift towards ensuring that all people live in a safe, healthy environment.

We place people and environmental health at the heart of all design decisions, including addressing toxic exposures and the impact on climate in the production of building materials. We stand with the communities from Louisiana in their pursuit of justice and health. 

This Juneteenth, let’s honor the past by actively working towards a future where all communities can thrive in health.



Photographs are by New Orleans’ based multimedia reporter, Julie Dermansky. We highly recommend her series “Louisiana’s Cancer Alley” on  

The Coalition Against Death Alley is a group of Louisiana-based members from environmental groups advocating for the health and safety of residents in the ‘petrochemical corridor’. 

Kimberly A. Terrell, Gianna St. Julien. Discriminatory Outcomes of Industrial Air Permitting in Louisiana, United States. Environmental Challenges, Volume 10, 2023

National Minority Quality Forum. (2023, June 15). People of color face disproportionately higher risk of cancer from environmental toxins, new study finds. Cancer Stage Shifting Initiative. Retrieved from

Jones, S. (2023, June 27). 85-mile stretch in Louisiana known as ‘Cancer Alley’ sees rates of disease and birth defects SEVEN TIMES the national average in its 1.5 million population. Daily Mail. Retrieved from



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