The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is issuing official requests for technical assistance from federal agencies in response to preliminary results of a forthcoming demonstration project on chloroprene exposure in St. John the Baptist Parish.
State and federal efforts to address air quality in St. John the Baptist Parish were initiated when the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2011 National Air Toxics Assessment was released in 2015. This report indicated that chloroprene being released from the Denka facility could potentially lead to increased cancer risks in the surrounding St. John the Baptist community.
Chloroprene is a chemical used in the production of Neoprene. Neoprene is a synthetic rubber used for many chemical and weather-resistant products such as wet suits and orthopedic braces. It also is used as a base resin in adhesives, electrical insulation and coatings. In 2010, EPA classified chloroprene as a likely human carcinogen.
EPA began monitoring ambient air for chloroprene in May 2016, and Denka subsequently implemented several control measures at the plant. The results of EPA’s ambient air monitoring taken since these control measures were implemented showed substantial reductions in chloroprene in ambient air at all monitoring sites.
EPA’s ambient air monitoring is ongoing. Despite the substantial reduction in chloroprene levels, the data show that periodic spikes of chloroprene appear to be occurring.
In addition, a forthcoming LSUHSC demonstration project commissioned by LDH includes preliminary results of both air and biomonitoring data that may indicate the need for further investigation of chloroprene levels in this community.
LDH response
In response, LDH has issued official requests for technical assistance from two federal agencies: EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. LDH’s official communication to EPA and ATSDR includes specific requests for assistance with the following:
  • Technical analysis of LSUHSC’s newly reported data,
  • Assessment of the need for additional monitoring and/or data collection, and
  • Implementation of additional monitoring and data collection efforts recommended by EPA and ATSDR.
Three prior reports regarding chloroprene risk and cancer incidence in St. John the Baptist Parish have been published by or in partnership with LDH: