Cancer risk associated with soil distribution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons within three environmental justice neighborhoods in Houston, Texas. Academic Article uri icon


  • Residents and advocacy groups began voicing concerns over the environmental quality located in the neighborhoods of Kashmere Gardens, Fifth Ward, and Denver Harbor in Houston, TX, following the confirmation of a cancer cluster in 2019 and another in 2021. These neighborhoods are in close proximity to a railyard and former wood treatment plant known to have utilized coal tar creosote and contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This research took core soil samples in September and October 2020 from 46 sites to assess for the presence and concentration of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) 7 Carcinogenic PAHs. Results showed the cumulative concentration of these PAHs in each sample was variable with a range of 13,767ng/g to 328ng/g and a mean of 2,517.2ng/g3122. A regional soil screening evaluation revealed that 40 of the 46 soil samples were in excess of the USEPAs most conservative screening levels of 1.010-6 increased cancer risk, but none exceeding levels considered actionable for remediation. This study is a fundamental first step for quantifying the environmental pollutants in this minority-majority community. Findings revealed a low risk of cancer risk based on current PAH concentrations alone but cannot assess contributions from other contaminants or from past, possibly higher, levels of contamination. Further research is needed to identify the potential casual pathways of the observed cancer cluster and to explore possible remediation needs.

published proceedings

  • Environ Geochem Health

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Sansom, G. T., Fawkes, L. S., Thompson, C. M., Losa, L. M., McDonald, T. J., & Chiu, W. A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Sansom, Garett T||Fawkes, Leanne S||Thompson, Courtney M||Losa, Lyssa M||McDonald, Thomas J||Chiu, Weihsueh A

publication date

  • February 2023