Health Department Provides Health Risk Data to St. John Officials

The Louisiana Department of Health released information regarding chloroprene emissions at the Denka Elastomer plant in LaPlace to officials in St. John the Baptist Parish. The assessment was prepared at the request of the Parish Council for the St. John School Board. 

In response to the request, LDH reviewed information to determine the possible health risks of exposure to chloroprene emissions to the children who attend school near the Denka plant. Specifically, LDH looked at whether health risks would be significantly reduced if the children were sent to another nearby school.

In order to reach a preliminary determination, health officials took into account the trends in chloroprene emissions from 2016 to May of 2018 which show a steady decrease in the air concentrations at six air-monitoring sites located in close proximity to the Denka plant. 

Using these trends, LDH calculated and compared the relative risk of cancer for children attending school at the current Fifth Ward Elementary School campus to children attending school at East St. John Elementary School (which is further from the Denka plant).

The assessment concluded, “Based on data limited to the March-May 2018 sampling results, transferring children from the current Fifth Ward Elementary School location to another location within the community would not greatly decrease their theoretical risks of developing excess cancers from exposure to chloroprene.”

“This assessment is intended to provide scientific information to local leaders so they can make the most informed decisions about the health and safety of children who attend school in that community,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer.

Guidry added that the risks calculated for this assessment are conservative theoretical estimates and cannot predict future health effects. Risk estimates may change as additional data become available. However, the department does recommend that the Denka plant should continue to work toward further reducing chloroprene emissions and that community air monitoring continue.