LyondellBasell pollution toxics
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In a small French town where Houston-based LyondellBasell is a fixture, residents complain of unending pollution

Residents on the east side of Harris County, Texas, share a troubling connection with Berre-l’Étang in southern France: exposure to toxic chemicals from LyondellBasell, a major petrochemical company. Nazmul Ahasan reports for Grist.


In a nutshell:

Activists in both countries complain that regulators prioritize the economic well-being of polluting industries over the environment and public health. In Berre-l’Étang, flares from LyondellBasell's industrial complex caused thick clouds of toxic smoke, affecting nearby Marseille. Meanwhile, in Harris County, Texas, chemical releases led to injuries and prompted concerns among residents. Despite activism and lawsuits, the company's impact on these communities remains a pressing issue, revealing a troubling intersection of industrial interests and public health.

Key quote:

“Basically, the judge blamed residents for pollution by saying, ‘You had it coming,’” said Algrain, a climate activist who grew up in Berre-l’Étang. “Others are saying if you’re not happy with the way you’re living or the living conditions, you can just leave.”

The big picture:

Living near a petrochemical plant can expose residents to a range of potential health hazards. These include an increased risk of respiratory issues due to the release of pollutants like sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, which can irritate the airways and lead to breathing difficulties. Prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, common emissions from petrochemical facilities, may elevate the risk of cancer. Carbon monoxide releases can cause symptoms like headaches and nausea, and long-term exposure may lead to chronic health problems. Residing in close proximity to such plants raises concerns about public health and underscores the need for stringent environmental regulations and safety measures.

Read the article at Grist.

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