This story was co-published with Public Health Watch and Houston Landing.
People living on the east side of Harris County, Texas, have an unlikely bond with residents of Berre-l’Étang in southern France: They all inhale toxic chemicals from plants owned by LyondellBasell, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies.
In the summer of 2020, LyondellBasell’s 2,471-acre industrial complex in Berre-l’Étang had more than half a dozen major incidents in which flares released large amounts of chemicals into the air. Thick clouds of smoke drifted over the community of 14,000. The flares burned so brightly, photographs show, that the normally pitch-black night was replaced by what looked like a prolonged sunset. The smoke carried benzene and other toxic substances to Marseille, France’s second-most-populous city, 10 miles away.
A year later in Texas, two major chemical releases at LyondellBasell facilities in Harris County forced residents of Jacinto City, Galena Park, and neighboring towns to shelter indoors. One... Read more