Many members of my community here in Northern Indiana work in RV or cabinet factories. The majority of the poorer people in my community, who are mostly immigrants and undocumented workers from Mexico and Central America, work in these factories. The pay for factory work is far better than that in alternative labor options, and it is very difficult for undocumented workers to find jobs in other industries. Factories know they can exploit the work of undocumented workers, pay them less than citizen workers, and put them through rougher conditions. The workers are pushed very hard and given few rights within the scope of the company.
These RV and cabinet factories in particular are known to emit a harmful pollutant called Styrene into the air, which these workers inevitably breathe on a daily basis. Styrene has been noted as a probable carcinogen by the WHO and is also highly linked to the contraction of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. For that reason, this undocumented population is most impacted by the neurodegenerative diseases and cancers brought on by the inhalation of styrene.
Styrene and the other chemicals expelled by these factories also wreak havoc on the natural environment. They pollute our watershed and agricultural lands, meaning that many of these pollutants leech into our food and water. These also lead to myriad health risks for community members and those we sell our food to across the united states and North America.