EPA in Louisiana

LaPlace, Louisiana - Frequent Questions

Q&A on this page:


Q: What is Chloroprene?

A:  Chloroprene is a chemical used in the production of neoprene.  Neoprene has a variety of uses, such as in wetsuits, gaskets, hoses, and adhesives.  Chloroprene is classified as an likely carcinogen by several agencies, including EPA.

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Q: Why was chloroprene determined to be a carcinogen?

A: In 2010 EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessment – which identifies and characterizes the health hazards of chemicals found in the environment – identified chloroprene as a likely human carcinogen and provided a unit risk estimate (URE). A URE provides the upper-bound excess lifetime cancer risk estimated to result from continuous exposure to an agent at a concentration of 1 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m3) in air. The URE for chloroprene was used in the 2011 NATA.

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Q: What is the difference between known and likely carcinogens?

A:  The EPA conducts assessments to determine the potential of chemicals to cause cancer to humans.  All the data available for a chemical is analyzed following EPA’s cancer guidelines (published in 2005) and according to the strength of evidence, in descending order, chemicals can fall under the following general categories (also called hazard descriptors):  carcinogenic to humans, likely to be carcinogenic to humans, suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential, inadequate information to assess carcinogenic potential, and not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.  A classification of “known” carcinogen indicates that there is strong evidence that a chemical causes cancer in humans.  A “likely” classification does not reach the level of strength of evidence as “known”, but there is sufficient evidence to conclude that a chemical is a suspect carcinogen to humans.  

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Q: What are the potential health effects of chloroprene?

A: Short term exposure to high concentrations can affect the nervous system (e.g., headache, irritability, dizziness), the heart (rapid heartbeats), gastrointestinal disorders, dermatitis, temporary hair loss, corneal damage. It may also affect the lung liver, kidneys and the immune system. Long term exposure to chloroprene has been reported to cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation, chest pains temporary hair loss, neurological symptoms (e.g., dizziness, insomnia, headaches) and fatigue in occupationally exposed workers. Effects in the cardiovascular system (rapid heartbeat, reduced blood pressure) and changes in blood cell parameters (red blood cells, hemoglobin content, white blood cells, and platelets) have also been reported in occupationally exposed workers. Long term exposure to chloroprene has also been associate with increase in the risk of developing cancer. 

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Q: Why wasn’t this facility identified in previous NATA assessments?

A: The IRIS assessment for chloroprene was completed in 2010.  While the previous NATA (2005) was released in early 2011, the analyses were completed in 2010 prior to the availability of the URE for chloroprene.  At the time of the 2005 NATA, chloroprene did have a noncancer reference concentration – a measure of potency for pollutants with effects other than cancer – and that was used in the assessment.

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Q: Does EPA have any regulations for chloroprene?

A: Chloroprene is used in the production of Neoprene, which is covered under EPA’s Polymers and Resins I source category. This source category went through a risk and technology review (RTR) in 2008. No cancer risks were estimated at that time because chloroprene did not have a URE.

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Q: Will EPA do another Risk and Technology Review (RTR) for the Polymers and Resins source category in light of the unit risk estimate (URE) for chloroprene?

A:  In December 2008, EPA completed its most recent risk and technology review for the relevant MACT standard (i.e., Group I Polymers and Resins (Neoprene Rubber Production). This MACT standard was originally established by EPA in September 1996.  

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Q: What is EPA doing to address the issue of chloroprene in LaPlace, LA?

A: EPA, in cooperation with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, launched a process to engage the community and local leaders in developing a plan to gather information that is important to addressing community concerns and useful to EPA as they evaluate possible actions and regulatory changes needed to protect public health and the environment. 

EPA is coordinating closely with LDEQ.  Together, we are requiring the facility to conduct emissions testing, perform additional ambient monitoring, and update modeling for a permit.  EPA is committed to getting information on emissions as soon as possible.  EPA supports LDEQ setting an enforceable schedule to make the needed changes to the facility.  EPA has its own authorities and will do what it believes is necessary to protect human health.  We are also working with community leaders and members to understand and respond to their concerns. 

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Q: What is NATA?

A: The National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) is a screening tool that identifies areas for further analysis to protect Americans from potential health risks. NATA uses estimates of emissions and computer models to approximate risks; it is not designed to determine actual health risks to individual people. Emissions data underlying the assessment can vary in level of detail from state to state. For example, one state that reports very detailed emissions data could appear to have higher risks than a state that reports a less complete inventory. In this case, a comparison would not be accurate.

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Q: What data are available via NATA App?

A: The NATA Map App contains visual representation of the NATA results and allows the querying and downloading of data in map and tabular formats.  Available information in the map app include:

  • Emissions Data
    • County and facility level
  • Modeled Ambient and Exposure Concentration Data
    • Pollutant (180) and source category (broad) summaries at census tract level
  • Cancer and Noncancer Risks
    • About 140 pollutants at census tract level
    • Pollutants and source group (41) summaries
    • Cancer risks expressed as in-1 million
    • Noncancer risks expressed as Hazard Indices

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Q: How long has the manufacture of chloroprene at the Denka (formerly DuPont) facility been going on?

A: The Denka (formerly DuPont) La Place facility has been operating for many years. It is currently owned by Denka Performance Elastomers, LLC and was previously owned by DuPont.  Historical reporting by the facility show chloroprene emission levels for many years (1991 to 2014 shown).

Not included above, TRI reports 1988, 1989 and 1990 chloroprene emissions from this facility were: 479 tpy, 486 tpy, and 461 tpy, respectively.

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Q: What is the facility allowed to emit under its Clean Air Act permit?

A: The current allowable emissions from the facility are 200 tons per year, with a few emission points at the facility emitting the majority of the chloroprene.

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Q: What are the highest NATA cancer risk areas in the USA?

A: The top 6 census tracts with the highest NATA-estimated cancer risks nationally are in Louisiana due to Denka (formerly DuPont) chloroprene emissions.

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