The air in Port Arthur, Elena Debre writes for Texas Monthly, "can feel like breathing the exhaust of an old car."
But the increase in production at some of the local petrochemical facilities to meet the demand for the raw materials for the plastic in masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment is making it worse. Dr. Elena Craft, senior director of climate and health with Environmental Defense Fund, says, “The higher the emissions, the higher the risk of some sort of adverse health outcomes.”
Alrady, Port Arthur residents are at risk of those outcomes. Port Arthur, Debre reports, is "a community of 54,000 that is 38 percent Black and 33 percent Hispanic, and where median income is just 60 percent of the state average." She adds, "Port Arthur has double the national average of childhood asthma. The most recent data taken from the Texas Cancer Registry shows that the Beaumont–Port Arthur area had around six more cancer cases and 24 more fatalities per 100,000 residents than the state as a whole during 2013–2017."
Now, former Exxon Mobil worker and former city council member John Beard tells Debre his daughter is developing headaches that "are eased only by leaving town. Beard noted that common symptoms of the coronavirus are hard to distinguish from the daily discomforts of dry coughs and sore throats that many Port Arthur residents experience from breathing the petrochemical facilities’ emissions."
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