In its latest 131-page report, human rights organization Amnesty International has designated the Houston Ship Channel as a “sacrifice zone.” According to the United Nations, a sacrifice zone is an area where residents face severe pollution, leading to detrimental health effects and human rights violations.
The report highlights the presence of over 600 petrochemical facilities in the Ship Channel, contributing to more than 44% of the nation’s petrochemical production. These facilities convert oil and gas into chemicals used in the production of plastics, fertilizers, and pesticides.
The document emphasizes the adverse impacts of these operations on human health, the environment, and the climate. Research conducted in 2019 revealed that zip codes near the Houston Ship Channel had an average life expectancy of approximately 20 years less than those located 15 miles to the west. Furthermore, the report indicates that around 80% of residents in Houston’s “most polluted areas” belong to minority communities.
As part of their investigation, Amnesty International interviewed 29 residents of the Ship Channel, including Mike Szumski, who resides near the ExxonMobil Baytown complex. Szumski, currently suing ExxonMobil for alleged damages to his home in a 2021 blast, expressed concerns about the company’s impact on human life, claiming they disregard the well-being of individuals.
ExxonMobil responded to Amnesty International’s findings with a statement, asserting compliance with applicable laws and regulations, a commitment to safeguarding health and security and upholding human rights in their operations. The full response from ExxonMobil and other corporations analyzed is available after the report.