Women in the non-profit sector shaping New Orleans: Cancer Alley the fight continues


Cancer Alley Protest

Louisiana is currently faced with several environmental issues impacting community health. At the top of the list is a region called Cancer Alley, also known as Death Alley. Cancer Alley is located along a stretch of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and it is home to numerous factories producing toxic chemicals and high levels of pollution. As a result, residents have been experiencing elevated levels of cancer, breathing problems, and other severe health issues. However, thanks to the hard work of grassroots organizations and various community members, the issue has garnered national media attention and rallied support against the corporations.

One of the leading organizations fighting for the safety of the adjacent communities is the Coalition Against Death Alley (CADA). As implied in the name, the Coalition Against Death Alley is a group of unified local organizations and leaders dedicated to the fight against the corporations harming residents. Although the New Orleans region is subject to many environmental issues tied to community health, CADA is arguably taking on the most severe one. Their demands include but are not limited to healthcare coverage for residents getting sick from pollution, the cessation of building new plants, and the maintenance of pollution levels to the EPA standards.

Through media attention and many research backed studies, the issue and region have accumulated a lot of attention, even on the national level. The media has spread awareness of the issue and gathered support for protestors. Cancer Alley has been declared a human rights issue both nationally and internationally due to the sheer number of deaths it has caused. There have been several interviews, films, and more featuring residents appealing to the American public for help. The local community has been suffering in silence for decades, and the pollution is only getting worse as more factories are introduced to the region.

The Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LBB), a partner of several grassroots organizations around Louisiana, is supporting CADA’s fight.  I learned more about their work after calling the organization’s phone number on their website. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has been working for 21 years to fight against oil and gas pollution in the New Orleans region, specifically in upriver communities being victimized by local factories. The employee I spoke with emphasized that Louisiana is one of the most polluted states in the country, to the point that parts of the state are “unlivable.” Cancer Alley is a tragic example of this claim. According to residents, it seems as if every family in the community has had someone die from the toxic pollution. The EPA’s National Toxic Air Assessment in 2014 stated that some areas of Cancer Alley made residents 50 times more likely to contract cancer than average Americans.

Overall, the evidence is undeniable. The residents of Cancer Alley are being poisoned in their homes by the pollution from these factories. Environmental pollution is deeply tied to community health, so until we stop polluting, our communities will remain sick. The fight has just begun against the massive corporations, but with growing support for organizations like CADA and LBB, there remains hope for the future.

This piece was edited by Delia O’Brien as part of Professor Kelley Crawford’s Digital Civic Engagement course at Tulane University. 


You must login to post a comment. Need a ViaNolaVie account? Click here to signup.