A nonprofit organization has put out an analysis on toxic industrial air pollution locations across the United States. The data collected is calculated into an incremental lifetime cancer risk. They've found 1,000 toxic hot spots across the country, and they estimate that 250,000 people are being exposed to levels of excess cancer risk. One of the locations on the map is right here in the Twin Ports.

The Environmental Protection Agency's threshold for an acceptable level of cancer risk is 1 in 10,000. So that basically means of 10,000 people living in the area, one person would get cancer attributed to the exposure of the pollution. The ProPublica analysis looks at 5 years of EPA data and highlights places where the cancer risk is 1 in 100,000. To be fair, many of the locations including the Twin Ports spot are at a lower risk than the EPA threshold.

The ProPublica study analyzed data from 2014 to 2018. They found that the area around the Superior refinery has a 5 year average of 1 in 65,000 estimated excess lifetime cancer risk. At times the risk was as low as 1 in 75,000. In 2018 the risk was 1 in 43,000. The spike can be attributed to the Husky Refinery explosion and fire that happened in April of 2018.

The analysis shows that the refinery emits benzene, ethylbenzene, and Polycyclic aromatic compounds. While any increase in cancer risk is bad, it is worth noting that the analysis shows that the levels are 85% below the EPA threshold for concern.


Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Based on the 5-year study, most of the time the refinery isn't contributing a terrible amount of carcinogens. The refinery fire however was toxic and could have been much worse. Much of Superior had to evacuate in case the fire worsened and ignited more toxic tanks. Thankfully fire crews were able to get the fire under control by the end of the day.

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There are other locations in the study in Minnesota including Hibbing and St. Cloud areas. In Hibbing, Cast Corp area has a 1 in 56,000 estimated excess lifetime cancer risk. St. Cloud's Polartank Trailer has a 1 in 1,900 excess lifetime cancer risk, which is 5.2 times the EPA's threshold.

You can search the hotspots around the country and see if one is near you by entering your zip code.

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