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J.H. Baxter Plant

The J.H. Baxter & Co. facility began operation in 1942. The facility treated various wood products such as railroad ties, electrical service poles, and crossarms with water and oil-based chemicals. As the city of Eugene grew around the facility, environmental concerns from their processes also grew.

Community members have historically been concerned about emissions from the J.H. Baxter facility. Most of the community's complaints have been associated with the odors coming from the facility. These odors are largely from creosote and pentachlorophenol, which are used in the facility's wood treatment process.

Beyond the disagreeable chemical smell of the facility, the community has reported difficulty breathing, burning or irritated eyes, headaches, and dizziness. Residents have also expressed concern about cancer and asthma rates in their neighborhoods.

JH Baxter has stopped operating in Jan 2022.

Another great source of background information about the J.H. Baxter project is this storymap.

EHAP's current activities at J.H. Baxter

In Fall 2020, the Environmental Health Assessment Program (EHAP) joined a technical workgroup with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA), and the City of Eugene to collaboratively investigate contamination from the facility and to evaluate potential health risks to the nearby community.

The Environmental Health Assessment Program (EHAP) has released the JH Baxter Health Consultation (HC) draft and summary fact sheets. The HC was available for public comment from March 2, 2023 - July 31st, 2023. Comments received during that period are available online HERE.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) collected surface soil samples from residential yards and other background location in September 2021 and May 2022. Both rounds of sampling showed levels of dioxin in soil, in seven residential yards, above health-based screening concentrations. To address community concerns about the health risks of exposure to dioxins, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) evaluated soil data recommendations in this health consultation report. 

Findings of the Health Consultation: 

  • Soil with dioxin concentrations over 40 parts per trillion (ppt) could harm the health of children under 6 years of age who come in contact with bare soil regularly for a year or longer. 
  • Eating eggs regularly from backyard chicken that live in yard at residences near Baxter that have dioxin levels above 4.7 ppt could be harmful to health. This health risk is for people of all ages and backgrounds. 
  • There is no risk of health effects from acute exposures (exposures less than 1 year). 
  • The increased cancer risk from long-term, or chronic, exposure from JH Baxter is low. 

Note: additional soil sampling done by DEQ/EPA in the Spring season will be updated in the health consultation report accordingly. 

Summary Factsheet: English | Spanish

Backyard Chicken Flier: English | Spanish

JH Baxter Health Consultation Report

JH Baxter Health Consultation Public Comments

Community Engagement

In December 2020, EHAP joined fellow government agencies and community stakeholders to form the J.H. Baxter Core Team. The Core Team is comprised of representatives from the following groups:

  • Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
  • Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA)
  • Oregon Health Authority (OHA)
  • City of Eugene
  • Lane County Health Department
  • Oregon State University
  • Beyond Toxics
  • Active Bethel Community
  • Bethel community members
The purpose of the Core Team is for community members and agency representatives to share information and ideas about how to resolve air, land, and water concerns around the Baxter facility. Together, the Core Team shares information about lived experiences, regulatory processes, and risk assessment data. These conversations are intended to collectively solve problems and to improve communications with each other and the broader community.

Since it's inception, the Core Team has met regularly to discuss health risks, environmental and public health assessment processes, and how community members can be engaged in these processes.

Cancer Investigation

EHAP consulted with the Oregon State Cancer Registry (OSCaR) to investigate cancer cases in the community surrounding J.H. Baxter. EHAP conducted a similar study in 2006 and published a follow-up report in 2008 that contained additional data from the state cancer registry.

Community members from the Core Team requested this new cancer analysis and helped inform its design. This new investigation broadened the types of cancers included in previous analyses from 2006 and 2008 to include 22 different cancer types.

The results of OHA's newest cancer analysis are available in this infographic (link). The analysis told us that:

  1. Twenty out of the twenty-two cancer types analyzed in these neighborhoods had the same or lower rates than in the state and county overall.
  2. Two cancer types, lung cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma, had rates slightly higher in these neighborhoods than in the state or county overall.  
OHA's cancer analysis did not tell us why rates of those two cancer types are slightly higher in these neighborhoods. 

EHAP's previous activities at J.H. Baxter

Previous Health Consultations

EHAP recently released a Letter Health Consultation to the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) evaluating health risks related to long-term air monitoring data from LRAPA's Highway 99 monitoring location. 

In 2003, LRAPA requested EHAP's assistance in evaluating the potential health risks from J.H. Baxter's air emissions to nearby residents.  EHAP completed a public health consultation in 2004 and found that there was not enough information to determine whether the facility's emissions represented a public health hazard.

EHAP completed a follow-up public health consultation in 2007 that evaluated the impact of air emissions from the J.H. Baxter plant on the public's health. EHAP reviewed air samples collected by LRAPA and concluded that nearby residents of J.H. Baxter are not likely to experience health problems as a result of long-term exposure to the plant's emissions. Chemicals used in the wood preserving process, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were detected in the air samples.

Napthalene was found most frequently among all chemicals in the air samples. Some of the samples had levels of napthalene that exceeded health guidelines. However, the levels of napthalene were not consistently high enough to harm people's health.

Previous Cancer Investigations

During the 2003 health consultation, residents living near J.H. Baxter asked EHAP to investigate rates of certain cancers in their community. Residents expressed concern that the rates of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and brain cancer in their neighborhoods were high and possibly caused by contaminants from J.H. Baxter and other nearby industries. EHAP was asked by residents to investigate local rates of these types of cancer to determine whether they were significantly elevated.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "The complex nature of cancer makes it inherently challenging to identify, interpret, and address cancer clusters." EHAP cannot scientifically draw direct associations or causality links between local cancer cases and the J.H. Baxter facility due to scientific limitations in cancer registry data and analysis. However, we do know the primary contaminants that J.H. Baxter emits, and we can investigate the types of cancer that are related to these contaminants. This association has been determined from previous scientific studies in other locations evaluating the strength of the relationship between various contaminants and cancer types.

Although scientific studies have not found an association between AML, nasal cancer, and brain cancer and the contaminants emitted from J.H. Baxter, EHAP agreed to address the community's concerns and conduct the investigation. EHAP found no significant elevations in AML, nasal cancer, or brain cancer cases.