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Cancer Alley may not be regulated well enough

No matter what one's political views are about the government, its job is to protect its citizens. Most people in Louisiana can agree with that because, in some ways, residents of the Bayou State need extra protection when it comes to matters of public health.

But a recent report suggests that government regulations are failing people who live in one of the most dangerous areas of the country when it comes to lung cancer. Some of the final bends of the Mississippi River are home to chemical refineries that have given the region the unfortunate nickname "Cancer Alley."

A plant on the border of St. John and St. James Parishes was emitting a large amount of mercury into the air, far more than they were permitted to by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. When this was discovered by plant officials, they asked permission from the state to continue it operations.

The operator of the plant was fined by the government in Baton Rouge for the excess pollution but otherwise continued as before. The deal with the Department of Environmental Quality did not require the plant reduce the emission of mercury, which is toxic to many forms of life even in trace amounts, but only required looking into ways to reduce it.

If people believe their lung cancer or other serious health problems was caused by industrial pollutants, they may consult an attorney on the possibility of a civil lawsuit for financial damages that can help with recovery. Civil damages may also convince polluters to reduce their negative effect on the local environment.

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