The communities of Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens have been trying to determine whether the illnesses that have plagued their families are related to toxic chemicals in the area. They have persevered and continued to speak truth to power, despite having their concerns minimized or even ignored.
Should Texas residents receive different levels of health protection from the state based on where they live, their health, or their income?
Yesterday, THEA stood with residents of the Greater Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens and asked that question. Together we met with the media to call on the state to quit giving lip service to the health concerns of the adults and children living in the area. Those residents have lived under the risk of illness and cancer while cleanup plans for creosote contamination at the Union Pacific rail yard have dragged on for years.
We organized a news conference so that neighbors could talk with reporters about the Houston Health Department’s announcement that, out of 47 soil samples it analyzed near the Union Pacific rail yard, every single sample came back positive for dioxins. Levels increase the closer you get to the Union Pacific fence line.
What hasn’t been reported, until we shared it yesterday, is that distinct types of dioxins contain different chemical “fingerprints” and this type can come from wood treatment processes. Follow this link to see one of the reports of the news conference.
We told reporters that, based on the discovery of dioxin and the likely origin, the state needs to finally do a thorough health investigation of the incidence of cancers, illnesses, and birth defects in the Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens. The last study found that childhood leukemia cases were five times higher than the county average. However, what most people don’t realize is that the state only found leukemia because it only looked for childhood leukemia. A different investigation looked at seven birth defects, when the standard for investigations is to look for all 49. Residents in Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens deserve the same standard of care as residents of other areas.
To that end, neighborhood leader Sandra Edwards and THEA Founder and CEO Jackie Medcalf have sent a letter to the Texas Department of State Health Services demanding a full investigation and expansion of the study area to include other suspected cancer clusters in Fifth Ward. You can read the letter here.
We need our state to get serious about the holistic health problems that plague the local community.
Fifth Ward is home to three Superfund Sites and countless abandoned industrial sites. The longer our state government tries to minimize the impact of decades of contamination, the more people will get sick and the longer our children will face the risk of cancer and other diseases.