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EPA and Justice Department File Complaint Alleging Public Health Endangerment Caused by Denka Performance Elastomer’s Carcinogenic Air Pollution

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WASHINGTON (Feb. 28, 2023) – Today, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint under Section 303 of the Clean Air Act against Denka Performance Elastomer LLC (Denka) to compel Denka to significantly reduce hazardous chloroprene emissions from its neoprene manufacturing facility in LaPlace, Louisiana. The complaint asserts that the LaPlace plant’s operations present an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and welfare due to the cancer risks from Denka’s chloroprene emissions.

“When I visited Saint John the Baptist Parish during my first Journey to Justice tour, I pledged to the community that EPA would take strong action to protect the health and safety of families from harmful chloroprene pollution from the Denka facility,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This complaint filed against Denka delivers on that promise. The company has not moved far enough or fast enough to reduce emissions or ensure the safety of the surrounding community. This action is not the first step we have taken to reduce risks to the people living in Saint John the Baptist Parish, and it will not be the last.”

“We allege that Denka’s emissions have led to unsafe concentrations of carcinogenic chloroprene near homes and schools in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Justice Department’s environmental justice efforts require ensuring that every community, no matter its demographics, can breathe clean air and drink clean water. Our suit aims to stop Denka’s dangerous pollution.”

“Emissions reductions at Denka has been one of our top priorities at LDEQ, and EPA is now building on the steps LDEQ took five years ago and our continuing efforts to reduce chloroprene emissions from the Denka facility,” said LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown.

Denka’s facility manufactures neoprene, a flexible, synthetic rubber used to produce common goods like wetsuits, beverage cozies, laptop sleeves, orthopedic braces, and automotive belts and hoses. Chloroprene is a liquid raw material used to produce neoprene and is emitted into the air from various areas at the facility.

According to the complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, air monitoring – conducted by both the EPA and Denka over the past several years – consistently shows long-term chloroprene concentrations in the air near Denka’s LaPlace facility that are as high as 14 times the levels recommended for a 70-year lifetime of exposure. This complaint seeks to compel Denka to eliminate the public health endangerment caused by its emissions by greatly reducing the levels of chloroprene to which this community is being exposed.

The complaint also names DuPont Specialty Products USA LLC – the owner of the land beneath Denka’s facility and Denka’s landlord. DuPont is a necessary party to ensure there are no delays in any actions that Denka is ordered to take to reduce its chloroprene emissions as a result of the rights DuPont holds under its lease agreement with Denka.

In 2010, EPA published its peer-reviewed assessment of chloroprene that concluded that chloroprene is “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Approximately 20% of the total population living within two-and-a-half miles of Denka are children under the age of 18, and between about 800-1,000 are children under the age of five. Children under the age of 16 are particularly vulnerable to mutagenic carcinogens like chloroprene. Denka’s chloroprene’s emissions reach more than 300 young children who attend the 5th Ward Elementary School, located within approximately 450 feet of Denka’s facility. Approximately 1,200 children who attend East St. John High School, located roughly a mile-and-a-half north of Denka, are also exposed to the facility’s chloroprene emissions.

For further information: EPA Press Office (

SOURCE: US EPA Newsletter (28.2.2023)


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