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Rubbertown is an industrial area located in West Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. In1992, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) received a petition toevaluate whether pollution from the Rubbertown industrial area posed a public health hazard tonearby residents. Community members expressed concerns about cancer and respiratoryproblems among West Louisville residents. In response to these concerns, ATSDR compiled andreviewed available environmental monitoring and health outcome data.

Data related to places in Rubbertown where people may be exposed are currently very limited.For air, the primary exposure pathway of concern, monitoring for toxic substances consisted oftwo studies (conducted from 1956-1957 and during 1988) that sampled for a range of substances,and yearly monitoring conducted since 1980 for a group of six pollutants. In the 1988 study, thesole monitoring location was in downtown Louisville, so data are of questionable relevance toWest Louisville. Soil sampling was limited to one study conducted at only a few residences inWest Louisville.

Similarly, very little sampling data are available for surface water, sediment, fish, and groundwater; however, ATSDR concluded that West Louisville residents are unlikely to be currently exposed to contamination present in these media. Fishing and swimming are prohibited along the stretch of the Ohio River bounded by Rubbertown (EPA, 1998). Swimming is also prohibited in Chickasaw Park Lake, and only catch-and-release fishing is allowed. Residents in the Rubbertown area are provided with municipal water that is drawn from the Ohio River, and thus should not be exposed to any contaminants present in groundwater.

Because of the lack of sampling data available for media to which residents of West Louisvilleare exposed (air and soil), ATSDR concluded that the Rubbertown industrial area poses anindeterminate public health hazard. Air toxics monitoring is currently being planned for WestLouisville, and ATSDR has recommended that additional soil sampling be conducted. ATSDRwill evaluate additional data as they become available.


A. Statement of Issues and Purpose

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) received a petition in 1992 to perform a public health assessment of the Rubbertown industrial area. In response to the petition, ATSDR site activities have included three site visits (please refer to Appendix F for specific details on the site visits). The petitioners expressed concerns about cancer and respiratory problems among nearby residents (Petitioner, 1992). A public health assessment is an evaluation of pertinent environmental data, health outcome data, and community concerns. Specifically, this public health assessment will (1) summarize existing data, and (2) identify data gaps. ATSDR has responded, where possible, to community health concerns, and will evaluate additional data as they become available.

B. Site Description and History

Rubbertown, consisting of numerous facilities, is an industrial area located in West Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky (see Figure 1, Appendix B). The petrochemical industrialization of the area began in 1918 when Standard Oil of Kentucky began construction of its Riverside Refinery. Soon afterward, other industries began opening plants that manufacture a variety of chemical/industrial products. Easy access to railroads and waterways made Rubbertown a prime choice for government selection as a base for the manufacture of synthetic rubber during World War II. In 1941, several facilities were built as defense plants under the supervision of the Office of Production Management, a United States (US) government agency. Many of these facilities have changed ownership over the years.

According to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), industries in the Rubbertown area release large quantities of toxic substances into the air. In total, these industries report 11 million pounds per year of toxic air emissions, which accounts for one-third of all TRI releases in Kentucky. Two of the top 10 emitters of air toxics in Kentucky are located in Rubbertown (EPA, 1998). Hazardous waste is also a concern. Three of the top 10 hazardous waste generators in Kentucky are located in Rubbertown (State of Kentucky, 1996), and 74 percent (%) of all hazardous substance spills in Jefferson County in 1996 occurred in the Rubbertown area (EPA, 1996).

Potential health hazards exist in the West Louisville area which are not related to the Rubbertown industries. These include radon, lead paint, mobile source air pollution, other industries not a part of Rubbertown, smoking, and indoor air issues. Jefferson County is rated Zone 1 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for radon concentrations (average concentrations greater than 4 picocuries per liter) (EPA, 1998). Sixty-one percent of the housing in the West Louisville area was built prior to 1950; thus, they are very likely to contain lead-based paint (JCDEHP, undated). Air pollution emitted by cars is extensive in urban areas, and may contribute significantly to ambient levels of air toxics in West Louisville. In addition, the Louisville area is classified by EPA as a "nonattainment area" for ozone levels (EPA, 1998); pollutants emitted by cars and industry both contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone.

C. Demographic Statistics

According to the 1990 Census of Population and Housing, the demographic statistics for locations within 1 mile of the site indicate that 27,513 persons reside in 10,824 households. Of the 27,513 persons, 41.1 % are white; 58.5 % are black; 0.13 % are American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut; 0.13 % are Asian or Pacific Islander; and 0.1 % are members of other ethnic groups. There are 3,136 children aged 6 or younger and 3,417 adults aged 65 and older (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991). Please refer to Figure 2, Appendix B, for additional demographic statistics.

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