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Proximity to Industrial Releases of Toxins and Childhood Respiratory, Developmental, and Neurological Diseases: Environmental Ascription in East Baton Rouge Parish: Revised

Recent research by Legot et al. (2010a, 2010b) has identified East Baton Rouge Parish (EBR) as a locus of particularly high volumes of emissions of developmental neurotoxins, i.e., those toxins that put children’s health and, especially, learning abilities at greatest risk. Many developmental neurotoxins are also classified as respiratory toxins, which are also linked to the sorts of childhood diseases (e.g., asthma) that impact school performance. This case study specifies the degree to which proximity to the main sources of these toxins in EBR is associated with high rates of neurodevelopmental diseases and childhood asthma. We also examine the relationship between proximity to toxins and race and class.  We find very strong patterns: disease rates are significantly higher in zip codes close to pollution “hot spots” than in more distant zip codes, as are percent minority and percent poverty.  This is evidence of “environmental ascription”, the existence of multiple, overlapping ascriptions based on race, class, and “place”.  Vulnerable populations are disproportionately exposed to the sorts of toxins that limit their life chances.

Revised April 2011

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