Map plots riskiest chemical release hot spots

By Ellie Borst | 02/23/2024 01:18 PM EST

A newly published data visualization tool demonstrates the cumulative health risks from the emissions of 23 “high priority” substances.

The Denka, formerly DuPont, factory.

Silos, smokestacks and brown pools of water line the banks of the Mississippi River in Louisiana, in an area known as "Cancer Alley." Industrial pollution on this ribbon of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge puts the mostly Black residents at nearly 50 times the risk of developing cancer than the national average, according to EPA. Emily Kask/AFP via Getty Images

A new interactive map shows the extent of releases of some of the most dangerous chemicals and the resulting cumulative health harms, a perspective that advocates are hoping EPA considers when completing risk assessments.

The Environmental Defense Fund’s “Chemical Exposure Action Map” offers a visualization of which communities are most at risk for cancer, asthma or developmental issues based on EPA-collected data on facility releases of 23 chemicals.
Chemical Exposure Action Map

Those 23 chemicals are listed as “high priority” under the Toxic Substances Control Act, including some of the most notorious substances such as carcinogens, asbestos, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. A “high priority” designation triggers an extensive, yearslong EPA risk assessment that could lead to regulatory bans or restrictions on the most dangerous uses.


But instead of looking at the risks that accumulate from chronic exposure to multiple toxic chemicals from multiple facilities, the review process typically only considers the risks from one chemical at one facility at a time.