05/25/2010 02:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

CNN Reveals Toxic America

Tragically, this video clip is not far enough from the truth. It's from Toxic America, a CNN special that will air on June 2 and 3. If you care about public and environmental health and America's future, it's must-see TV.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta hosts the two-part program, revealing devastating results from a year-long investigation that particularly resonates with current concerns over the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

CNN's investigators focus on a community perched on the Gulf: Mossville, Louisiana, a formerly rural, African-American community now surrounded by 14 chemical plants that continually leak toxic chemicals - proven cancer-causing chemicals - into the air and environs.

For forty years, the residents of Mossville have complained to the oil industry, state and federal agencies about the damage to their health, even as the personal trail of proof keeps mounting.

"I got cancer. My dad had cancer. In fact, he died of cancer. It's a lot of people in this area who died of cancer," says Herman Singleton Jr., 51. Singleton lost two uncles and an aunt to cancer, just one of the diseases that have ravaged the community and surrounding bayous. Personal stories of family and relatives dying young and those stricken with serious health ailments abound. Residents have repeatedly asked for free health clinics, lower emissions from the chemical plants - and even asked to relocate their town.

"The people of Mossville are like an experiment. They know that they have high levels of dioxin in their blood, and they're allowed to continue to live there and be exposed," says Wilma Subra, a chemist from New Iberia, Louisiana, recipient of the MacArthur genius grant in 1999 for her environmental work with communities.

This saga began during the industrial boom of World War II when tens of thousands of acres of rich, rural agricultural country were replaced by industrial and chemical plants and refineries across the U.S.A.

Mossville was not chosen by accident. As an unincorporated community founded in the 1790's by African Americans, it was a perfect target for exploitation. "What happens is zoning becomes very political, and what happens is people with power, with lawyers and elected officials who can fight for them and make decisions for them, oftentimes will get things placed away from them and placed in locations where other people live," says Robert Bullard, author of Dumping in Dixie.

Part Two of the CNN Special, Toxic Childhood, reveals the effect these toxins have on unborn babies such as, at birth, having 200-plus dangerous chemicals in their blood including flame retardants, dioxins, substances in non-stick coatings like Teflon and hormone-like compounds found in plastic; or a lower IQ by age five when exposed to car and truck exhaust in the womb. The EPA has tested only about 200 of the 80,000 chemicals used in this country, but has only banned five.

There is a ray of hope on the horizon. Lisa Jackson, the new EPA administrator, has publicly stated environmental justice is one of her priorities. Jackson, a native of New Orleans, is the first African-American administrator of the EPA.

During the past year, as CNN probed the Mossville situation, the EPA began testing residents to ascertain eligibility for allocation of federal funds for cleanup and possible relocation. And the Organization of American States has agreed to hear a human rights case against the U.S. government for failing to protect Mossville against toxic chemicals.

This is old-fashioned television journalism at its best, the type that CNN should aspire to do more of, particularly in light of its on-air talent drain and ratings slump.

This article commissioned by and originally appeared on: