Residents in Houston's historically Black Fifth Ward want "restitution," as they fight the courts and Union Pacific, a company that has "refused responsibility" for what are now two confirmed cancer clusters in their community.
"For decades, creosote and other chemicals were used as a coating to preserve wooden railroad ties at the nearby rail yard, which was once the largest in the Southern U.S.," writes Xander Peters for Scalawag. Creosote "is also a 'probable human carcinogen,' according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Low-level, long-term exposure has been linked to certain types of cancer, as well as chronic health conditions involving stomach pains, liver problems, and burning of the mouth and throat."
Chemicals, including the creosote, spread from the railyard underneath at least 110 homes. "City and state health officials have found as much as 10 solid feet of the tar-like substance" under some of these homes, Peters reports. As residents worry about new exposure right now, the Texas State Department of Health confirmed last year higher rates of incidences of cancers in both adults and children.
Despite those cancer clusters, residents face a new burden — proving it. Union Pacific has "denied any wrongdoing," Peters reports, but residents say they want the creosote cleaned up, relocated out of harm's way and compensated for their medical expenses. Sandra Edwards, 55, says, "I'll be fighting the whole way."
STAY UP TO DATE
The quality of our newsletter is considered satisfactory and poses little or no risk.