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Public Lab Research note


Cancer Problems: Meet Cancer Alley

by NicholasNail , duynguyen , owentaylor | April 13, 2021 17:12 13 Apr 17:12 | #26223 | #26223

Introduction:

We are a group of three 9th grade students looking into Cancer Alley, a small area in Louisiana between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. People living there are 50 times more likely to get cancer than in other areas around the world. This is all due to the massive amount of pollution around the area from large companies and factories.

Our main concern:

Our main concern is how the pollution and high cancer rates in this area affect peoples' daily lives.

Obstacles and supporting information:

Our obstacles are the limited amount of free time we have, getting to Cancer Alley in order to do research, and obtaining instruments to record data about the air quality.

Who is engaged in this concern?

Sharon Lavigne, founder of a protest group named "Coalition Against Cancer Alley", and other locals inside of Cancer Alley, such as Robert Taylor and Dorothy Jenkins (Business Insider). These people are focused mainly on trying to stop these factories and companies from polluting the area.

What are the initial questions?

  1. What are the chemicals in the air?
  2. What's the radius of Cancer Alley?
  3. How many people are affected?
  4. Why are the chemicals that are released so dangerous?
  5. Why do they still allow people to live in this area if cancer cases are more likely than the rest of the world?
  6. How are these companies able to pollute the area without legal action being taken against them?
  7. Does it affect animals?

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5 Comments

@NicholasNail has marked @OwenTaylor as a co-author.

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@NicholasNail has marked @DuyNguyen as a co-author.

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How do you plan to investigate and test for these chemicals? Very good initial paper.

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sharing this article from the UN that has a breakdown of the ways that environmental racism have contributed to and perpetuate the harms against those living in Cancer Alley: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086172

Here is a followup with quotes from Sharon Lavigne: https://grist.org/justice/united-nations-environmental-racism-cancer-alley-louisiana/

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Summary For Cancer Alley Air Quality Study

We collected our data from four test sites, two of them being on our school's campus, one of them outside and the other inside. The other two test sites were group members' homes, to see the average carbon dioxide and oxygen levels of an average neighborhood. First, we got equipment to measure the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels from our school's lab. We measured the levels inside the lab as well as in the backyard of the school. After that, two of our group members took the equipment home to measure the levels at their own houses. When we came back, we analyzed the data and got the averages to put in the chart down below.

Test Sites

ts1.png

Test Site 1 (Outside School)

ts2.png

Test Site 2 (Outside)

ts3.png

Test Site 3 (Outside)

ts4.png

Test Site 4 (Inside School)

Data

image_2021-05-24_152258.png

Conclusion

Although it wasn't what we expected, we did get some interesting data. The test site closest to Cancer Alley had the lowest amount of carbon dioxide and had the second-highest amount of oxygen. This could be due to multiple things, but the most likely is that the test site wasn't close enough to Cancer Alley to get accurate readings, or that there isn't as much carbon dioxide pollution in that area as we thought. The most surprising part of this whole project to us is that test site one, which took place outside, had the worst "air quality" of the four test sites. There are multiple factors that could have influenced the data, the most prominent of them being that test site one is a school. Perhaps the mass amount of people breathing the air there decreased the amount of oxygen while increasing the amount of carbon dioxide. A way to make this project even better would be to acquire an air sample and test for the more dangerous chemicals that the people of Cancer Alley are worried about, like petrochemicals or We could have acquired a sample of the air to test for dangerous chemicals like chloroprene. My group and I were able to do some experiments with the air and enjoy it while trying to provide more information to the community living here.

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