One community in Dallas, Texas, has been experiencing health issues at much higher than normal rates and suspected that neighboring industrial factories might be to blame. Now, a new study has confirmed that is indeed the case.
What is happening?
The results of the study, undertaken by environmental groups and Texas A&M scientists, revealed that air pollution levels in Joppa, a small community in Southeast Dallas, are two to three times higher than in the rest of the city.
The results were not surprising to the residents, who can see the air pollution with their own eyes.
“You can actually see it, it’s like white sometimes…we barely wash our cars and then the following day, there’s like this little type of dirt, film, or something on top of it,” one resident told CBS News Texas.
The factories causing the air pollution in Joppa include TAMKO asphalt shingle plant and Union Pacific Switchyard, among others, according to The Dallas Morning News.
As a result, a survey of 200 Joppa residents found that a staggering 18% had been diagnosed with asthma (more than twice the normal rate), the Morning News reported. In addition, 17% of residents had experienced symptoms of respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), over the past year, per CBS News.
Why is this concerning?
Joppa was established as a freedman’s town in 1872 by formerly enslaved people and is one of the last remaining such towns in the United States. It is made up of mostly low-income families, and according to the U.S. Census, its population of 5,000 people is currently 62% African American and 32% Hispanic, the Morning News reported.
The pollution being unleashed on the community by TAMKO, Union Pacific, and others is a clear example of environmental racism, defined as “the intentional siting of polluting and waste facilities in communities primarily populated by African Americans, Latines, Indigenous People, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, migrant farmworkers, and low-income workers.”
As the Dallas city government has a documented history of ignoring the needs of Joppa residents, this abuse has been allowed to continue unabated.
What can be done about it?
Joppa residents hope to be able to leverage this study to finally get the city to heed their concerns, get the area rezoned, and force the factories to move out. However, even if successful, this process would still take years.
“What we would like to see this study do is fuel what we call the deindustrialization of Joppa,” Jim Schermbeck, director at Downwinders at Risk, one of the groups involved in the study, said in an interview. “We want to roll back the racist zoning that puts these folks in close proximity to these industries.”
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