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La Frontera Química: Toxic Emissions and Spills along the U.S.-Mexican Border

John P. Tiefenbacher


Toxic releases and spills along the U.S.-Mexican border are examined to define the "chemical frontier," where economic growth is increasing industrial-chemical risks to local populations. The chemical frontier is expanding into Mexico as a consequence of industrialization and free trade, creating what is known as la frontera química.

Analyses show that emitting facilities are found in counties with higher population densities and little or no agricultural activity. Spill reports were greatest in counties with high populations of non-Hispanics and non-Spanish speakers, high incomes, low poverty rates, and low percentages of employment in the agricultural sector.

The borderland is being assimilated into the U.S. industrial landscape. The growth and movement of non-Hispanic populations into the greater border region represents not only economic growth and development, but also the transference of the hazards that come with that growth.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229