A specific region of the lower Mississippi River has
become widely recognized for the cases of environmental health injustices.
Cancer Alley is located along the River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Prior to the arrivals of the industrial plants in the 18th and 19th centuries,
cotton and sugarcane plantations dominated the area (Berry,
2001). Petrochemical plants and refineries began to take over the
area in the early 20th century. In 1909, Standard Oil (now Exxon) established
a refinery in Baton Rouge and industries improved the economy of the communities.
However, the prosperity came at the cost of the community’s health.
According to the Louisiana Office of Conservation in the 1980’s,
the oil refineries were leaching toxic chemicals into the “fertile
rice belt in Cajun country” and local groundwater (Berry, 2001).
Community activists in the 1980s coined the term Cancer
Alley, which refers to the health effects suspected to be caused by the
chemical, nuclear, and petrochemical plants located in the communities
along the lower Mississippi River. These communities are exposed regularly
to high levels of toxic emissions that are associated with various types
of cancers, birth defects, asthma, and bronchitis (Koeppel,