Louisiana Warned of Soaring Toxic Gas Levels That Can 'Directly Damage DNA'

louisiana warned of soaring toxic gas levels that can 'directly damage dna'

The levels of the toxic gas ethylene oxide is illustrated across Louisiana. It is at levels thousand times higher than what is considered safe.

Louisiana has been warned of soaring toxic gas levels that can "directly damage DNA."

A recent study revealed that toxic levels of ethylene oxide (EtO) gas were found in parts of Louisiana, at concentrations thousands of times higher than what is deemed safe.

The discovery was made using an advanced mobile air-testing lab, which detected much higher levels of the gas than previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study was conducted by environmental engineers from Johns Hopkins University, and indicates a significantly higher risk of cancer for people living near facilities that manufacture and use ethylene oxide.

"Our findings have really important implications for community residents, especially infants and children," Keeve Nachman, associate professor of environmental health and engineering, said in a statement. "Ethylene oxide has been shown to directly damage DNA, meaning that exposures that occur in early life are more dangerous."

The EPA told Newsweek in statement that under the leadership of Administrator Michael Regan, it has made "important strides to protect the residents of Cancer Alley from dangerous toxic pollution, including taking local enforcement action and finalizing national standards to reduce cancer risk in affected communities."

"These efforts have been informed by robust community engagement, including visits by the Administrator to Cancer Alley, and the agency will continue to work closely with advocates and affected community members to ensure those lived experiences along with science and data informs our efforts to protect overburdened communities," the statement read.

The area, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, is known as "Cancer Alley" due to its history of exposure to toxic chemicals.

The EPA spokesperson also stated that over the past five years, the agency has taken actions to protect the public from EtO pollution. This includes working with state agencies to enforce federal standards, holding public meetings, and addressing community questions. Recently, the EPA finalized standards for chemical manufacturing and sterilizing facilities to significantly reduce EtO emissions and cancer risks. The agency is also conducting research, investigating additional EtO sources, and providing public information on air toxics through the updated AirToxScreen tool.

Newsweek has contacted the Louisiana Department of Health by email outside regular office hours.

EtO is a human-made gas often used to produce other chemicals, fumigate, and sterilize medical and food production equipment. Even at low concentrations, it is highly dangerous to humans, with long-term exposure linked to cancer. Inhalation is the primary route of exposure, which is particularly concerning for people living near or working in facilities that handle the gas.

"I don't think there's any census tract in the area that wasn't at higher risk for cancer than we would deem acceptable," Peter DeCarlo, an associate professor of environmental health and engineering said in a statement. "We expected to see ethylene oxide in this area. But we didn't expect the levels that we saw, and they certainly were much, much higher than EPA's estimated levels."

Detecting EtO in the air is challenging with traditional monitoring methods.

"There is just no available data, no actual measurements of ethylene oxide in air, to inform workers and people who live nearby what their actual risk is based on their exposure to this chemical," DeCarlo said.

To address this issue, the researchers developed a mobile lab capable of measuring EtO in real time. The lab, consisting of two vans equipped with sensitive analytical equipment, was used to survey the air in southeastern Louisiana.

"We went out to answer the question: how much ethylene oxide is in the air in this region and are the levels of concern for people's health?" said lead author Ellis Robinson, an assistant research engineer at Johns Hopkins. The team drove the mobile lab around the area for about a month, collecting air samples along a heavily industrialized route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The testing revealed ethylene oxide levels as high as 40 parts per billion near industrial facilities—more than a thousand times higher than the accepted risk level for lifetime exposure, which starts at 11 parts per trillion. These elevated levels were found not only close to the industrial plants but also as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) downwind.

The EPA has recently announced stricter regulations for EtO, requiring facilities to drastically reduce emissions. The findings from this study could help regulators identify areas that need closer monitoring and more stringent controls to protect public health.

This research also highlights the urgent need for better tools and methods to monitor air quality and protect communities from harmful pollutants, according to the study.

"Our study demonstrates the need for more accurate measurements to help identify locations to install monitors for more long-term monitoring and so we can best protect the health of people who are living in those areas," DeCarlo said.

Update 06/11/24, 9:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from the EPA.

Do you have a tip on a science story that Newsweek should be covering? Do you have a question about ethylene? Let us know via [email protected].

Start your unlimited Newsweek trial

OTHER NEWS

13 minutes ago

Pistons fire coach Monty Williams one year after signing record-setting contract, per report

15 minutes ago

French expat, 29, is left shocked by 'brutal' act on her very first date in Australia: 'What's the point?'

15 minutes ago

Video: On me Ed son! Davey's Lib Dems target England football fans with Euro 24 election broadcast pledging to get Premier League games on free-to-air TV, reform season ticket prices and change club ownership rules

15 minutes ago

Are people in YOUR area dying needlessly? Our interactive map reveals the locations across England and Wales with highest 'avoidable' fatalities... so how does your area fare?

15 minutes ago

Would you like to see the menu... of the future? From cricket salad to 'water plant' spag bol, AI images reveal what meals could look like in 30 years as we're forced to eat 'sustainability' to help save the planet

15 minutes ago

Video: Smiling Michael and Carole Middleton, who have spent months at the Princess of Wales' side, make first public appearance since Kate's cancer diagnosis at Ascot alongside other royals

15 minutes ago

Video: The ritzy Hamptons town where celebs keep getting into trouble after Justin Timberlake's DWI arrest

15 minutes ago

Video: Jay Slater's mother begs people to 'keep looking' as hunt for missing Brit is thrown into chaos after false sighting of teenager, 19, in tourist hotspot 'moves' focus away from mountainous region

15 minutes ago

Nurse shocked to find family home of 17 years sold behind her back - due to mysterious loophole that could affect vast numbers of Americans

16 minutes ago

North Korea's Kim and Russia's Putin sign partnership treaty

16 minutes ago

House ethics panel interviewed half a dozen women in Rep. Matt Gaetz sex and drugs probe: report

16 minutes ago

Cadillac Uncovers Gorgeous Coupe it Should've Built

16 minutes ago

Assault on US avocado inspectors in Mexican state led to suspension of inspections

16 minutes ago

In 'Janet Planet,' playwright Annie Baker explores a new dramatic world

16 minutes ago

'Verzuz' will return after Swizz Beatz, Timbaland lock in new distribution partnership with X

16 minutes ago

Mediterranean diet or not, eating seasonally can be good for you

16 minutes ago

Taine Plumtree convinced Wales have ‘nothing to lose’ in Springboks showdown

16 minutes ago

SZA is the festival headliner who will save our summers

16 minutes ago

The Independent launches new wine club in partnership with Perfect Cellar

16 minutes ago

Britney Spears toasts ‘little things in life’ after Justin Timberlake arrest

16 minutes ago

Why Arrow McLaren replaced Theo Pourchaire, signed Nolan Siegel to multi-year deal

16 minutes ago

Pistons part ways with head coach Monty Williams after one season

16 minutes ago

Richard Hammond ‘nearly wept’ over daughter’s realisation about his ‘dangerous’ work

16 minutes ago

Four Republican Incumbents Lose Seats in Oklahoma

16 minutes ago

'We go through so many different emotions'

16 minutes ago

Chris Bowen labels Coalition’s nuclear plan a ‘risky scam’ as premiers affirm state bans

16 minutes ago

13 Italian Fashion Styles to Embrace La Dolce Vita This Summer From $9, According to a Travel Writer From Rome

16 minutes ago

City with ‘no character’ named one of the best value commuter spots in the UK

16 minutes ago

New Mexico Battles ‘Devastating’ Wildfires as Weather Complicates the Fight

16 minutes ago

Prince William beams at cheering Royal Ascot crowds as King Charles misses second day

16 minutes ago

Taylor Swift impresses fans with Welsh greeting

16 minutes ago

Angry Alan Shearer launches furious rant at Man Utd for 'undermining' Erik ten Hag

16 minutes ago

SuperSport United part ways with Bafana Bafana vice-captain

16 minutes ago

What to Know About Suicides in the U.S. Army

19 minutes ago

Russian court sentences U.S. soldier to nearly 4 years on theft charges

21 minutes ago

WestJet is cancelling dozens of flights as mechanic strike looms

21 minutes ago

Hamilton to strengthen tenant protections by adopting bylaw preventing ‘demovictions’

21 minutes ago

‘Eureka Day’ Sets Broadway Cast: Zoë Chao, Amber Gray, Jessica Hecht, Bill Irwin & Thomas Middleditch

23 minutes ago

Wood you believe it? Fully functional WOODEN car takes to the road - and it looks like something from a science fiction blockbuster

23 minutes ago

Celine Dion Cries as She Thanks Her Children, Receives Standing Ovation at N.Y.C. Documentary Premiere