Gas Industries Are Poisoning African Americans

The NAACP and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) have co-authored a landmark report that, for the first time, demonstrates the specific health risks that airborne pollutants from oil and natural gas developments cause in African American communities.

The study, “Fumes Across the Fence-Line: The Health Impacts of Air Pollution from Oil and Gas Facilities on African American Communities” was recently released at the National Press Club by CATF and NAACP and supported by the National Medical Association.

“We’ve found that fence-line communities, including many African Americans, are suffering especially serious health consequences as a result of these emissions,” says Lesley Fleischman, Research Analyst for Clean Air Task Force and co-author of the study.

This study provides data on environmental racism that activists have been fighting for. According to a release from the NAACP, some of the findings of the groundbreaking study are:

Oil and gas facilities are built within a mile of over one million African Americans, exposing them to a higher risk of cancer due to air toxic secretions.

The oil and gas industries violated the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air quality standards due to the gas emissions in the African American communities causing over 130,000 asthma attacks among children and over 100,000 missed school days each year.

New oil refineries are being built close to more than 6.7 million African Americans excessively exposing them to hazardous emissions such as benzene, sulfur dioxide and more.

The health risks impact from the oil and natural gas supply chain are based on data examining how air toxics increases the risk of cancer and respiratory disorders in counties that exceeds EPA’s level of concern. The largest African American populations with the cancer risk are found in Texas and Louisiana.

Houston and Dallas is the largest population for risk of childhood asthma attacks due to ozone smog. Since pollutants can travel thousands of miles before forming ozone smog, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York City face thousands of asthma attacks each year.

“Energy companies often deny responsibility for the disproportionate impact of polluting facilities on lower-income and communities of color,” said Kathy Egland, NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Committee chair, in a statement.

“It is claimed that in most cases the potentially toxic facilities were built first and communities knowingly developed around them. However, studies of such areas show that industrial polluting facilities and sites have frequently been built in transitional neighborhoods, where the demographics have shifted from wealthier White residents to lower-income people of color. Polluting facilities also reduce nearby property values, making them more affordable areas to live in for people who do not have the means to live elsewhere.”