President Joe Biden’s recent utterance of “Cancer Alley” has raised the hackles of Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy. The Baton Rouge Republican said the president’s use of the term, rooted in longstanding concerns about toxic air pollution in the industrial corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, was an insult against Louisiana. “I’m not going to accept that sort of slam upon our state,” Cassidy said in a call with reporters Tuesday. “It sounds like great rhetoric. But again, I don’t accept that slam.”

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The President made this comment a day or so ago when he used it as an example of where marginal low-income largely Black families bear the medical results of having petroleum and chemical plants build in their back yards. The poor cannot use “not in my back yard” as well as more affluent neighborhoods. The President is operating on the basis of “environmental justice”.

Cassidy, a physician specializing in digestive ailments, acknowledged Louisiana does have higher rates of cancer than other states, but rejected industrial pollution as a major cause. Instead, Cassidy put the blame on lifestyle choices, like smoking and overeating, and other factors. “We have a higher incidence of cigarette smoking, of obesity, of certain viral infections, and other things which increase the incidence of cancer in our state,” Cassidy said. “So whenever you speak of Cancer Alley … you have to do what is called a regression analysis to separate out those factors … and several others that could be an alternative, and a more typical explanation for why some folks may have cancer. When you do that, the amount of cancer which is left unexplained is pretty marginal.”

The Louisiana Chemical Association agreed with the Senator saying that there is no clear cluster of cancer in “Cancer Alley”. LCA President Greg Bowser said Biden’s use of the term was “inflammatory” and “beyond disappointing.” Gail LeBoeuf disagrees.

LCA President Greg Bowser said Biden’s use of the term was “inflammatory” and “beyond disappointing.” “Propagating the myth of Cancer Alley is not only dangerous, but is an affront to the people of our great state who work tirelessly to make the industry cleaner, safer and more efficient on a daily basis,” he said. Gail LeBoeuf, an environmental and civil rights activist in St. James Parish, said Cassidy is “blaming the victims.” “We hear it a lot down here — that we can’t be trusted to know what’s hurting us,” she said. “It’s always ‘blame the folks’ – the poor, Black folks – for their own demise.”

In fact, there is no clear showing as the areas studied are irregular and small areas are not studied. LSU has agreed to do a better more specialized study of the effected areas. Added to the current problem is that pollution is increasing and is not being shared equally by all as the plants are, as noted, in economically poor areas.

LeBoeuf said it’s “common sense” that breathing air with high levels of cancer-causing chemicals would lead to cancer and other health problems. “To say there is no ‘Cancer Alley,’ Senator Cassidy is just cutting off his common sense,” she said.

Needless to say, there will be more to this story!

Sen. Cassidy denies “Cancer Alley”
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