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Yaneli Ortiz closes her eyes as her father helps her get ready  before her quinceañera in Laredo Texas.  In 2019 Yaneli was …
The Texas Tribune-ProPublica Investigative Unit

A Laredo plant that sterilizes medical equipment spews cancer-causing pollution on schoolchildren

Nobody told Yaneli Ortiz’s family that the factory they lived near emitted ethylene oxide. Not when the EPA found it causes cancer. Not when she was diagnosed with leukemia. And not when Texas moved to allow polluters to emit more of the chemical.

photography by Kathleen Flynn, special to ProPublica/Texas Tribune

JJ Nevares wrote down his birthday wish, which he attached to a balloon and released outside his aunt’s home in San Antonio …
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Yaneli Ortiz pauses and takes a breath as she prepares to sit down to get her makeup done before her quinceanera in Laredo T…

In the dark

The Texas Gulf Coast is home to some of the biggest and most toxic hot spots in ProPublica's analysis, with most of the cities of Houston, Port Arthur and Beaumont exposed at a risk of often well above 1 in 100,000.

But if you look at the risk from all chemicals except ethylene oxide, these hot spots shrink dramatically, showing the outsize impact of the chemical.

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Children at risk 

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JJ Nevares and his older brother attended Julia Bird Jones Muller Elementary School, located at the yellow square. The school is in an area that faces an estimated elevated lifetime cancer risk of 1 in 3,700, according to a ProPublica analysis of the most recently available EPA data. Credit: Lucas Waldron, ProPublica

Industry’s defense: a medical benefit

Midwest Sterilization Corporation in Laredo Texas, operates 24/7 and emits more ethylene oxide than any other sterilizer pla…

“Made it this far”

Yaneli Ortiz tries to hold back tears before entering the church for her quinceañera mass in Laredo Texas. In 2019 Yaneli wa…
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Karla Ortiz pushes her daughter Yaneli in a wheelchair to her appointment at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi,…

“Laredo can’t be a sacrifice zone”

Rafael Nevares gets off his school bus in front of his home in Laredo.
Yaneli Ortiz dances with her mother Karla during her quinceañera mass in Laredo Texas. In 2019 Yaneli was diagnosed with acu…

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