OPINION: Rohm & Haas threatens to add to pollution in West Louisville

The Air Pollution Control District (APCD) released notice on Aug. 11 that the Rohm & Haas Chemicals Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) on Camp Ground Road in West Louisville is requesting to start on-site combustion, which includes the burning of chemicals, resulting in a byproduct of some sort. This would be extremely dangerous for public health, feed into environmental racism in West Louisville and be a threat to public education.

Thematic map showing population density of Jefferson County. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

Rohm & Haas would be emitting dangerous chemicals such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxides (SO2) which are both major threats to public health. Both NOx and SO2 cause irritation and inflammation to the lungs and airways. SO2, when combined with water and air, typically form acid rain, make it particularly dangerous.

NOx is also known for creating ground level ozone, a toxic gas, which is very dangerous to both people and the environment because it can cause lung scarring after long term exposure. NOx inhibits vegetation growth and causes leaves to be more susceptible to frost, affecting the environment adversely.

Allowing Rohm & Haas to increase their emissions would only add to the environmental racism that West Louisville faces by increasing the amount of pollution in the area. Environmental racism is when low-income or minority groups are systematically placed in environmentally hazardous or degraded environments.

The area already struggles with many other companies emitting dangerous chemicals into the air, most notably the American Synthetic Rubber Company. It would be illogical to continue to damage this one community that has been continuously struggling for their right to clean air. Polluting companies and the APCD say that projects like these will bring jobs and prosperity to West Louisville, however, this is only a scapegoat used by money blind individuals to cover up what these companies really do. Rohm & Haas in particular is not based in Kentucky, so the majority of profit would not go to the Kentuckian economy. While people that are employed by the company will have familial benefit, they will suffer from many ailments due to poor working conditions. This results in higher medical and insurance bills amongst employees, thus, counteracting any economic gain. If we want to see economic change in West Louisville, we cannot continue to strip them of their basic human rights.

Education is also at risk. There are seven schools in the West Louisville area occupied by almost 4,000 majority black and low-income students who will be exposed to these chemicals throughout their childhood. Children are one of the most susceptible demographics to air pollution because they take more breaths per minute than adults do and their lungs are still in development. This is our future generation that we are putting in danger during one of the most vital point of their lives.

As students at the front-line of this issue, it is extremely important that we are aware of threats to our air and learn to fight back against our oppressors. This is certainly not the first or last time that the Air Pollution Control Board will consider stripping us of our right to clean air. We can only be ready for the next threat and always be prepared to fight back.

For any information regarding air pollution permits or to send public comments, please email [email protected].

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Maya C. Joshi is a staffer for Manual RedEye this year. She is a Zoroastrian Parsi and Intersectional Feminist who, when not talking about politics or fictional characters, is writing or making music. She enjoys learning about and reporting on sports. You can contact her at [email protected]

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