According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one cause of death in the Hoosier State is heart disease. The number two leading cause? Cancer.
Cancer and the Ohio River Valley
There is no doubt that cancer is prevalent in this part of the country. Many speculate that the Ohio River Valley itself could be to blame as it creates a low point for airborne toxins from major manufacturing and industrial waste to settle. Then there is, of course, the fact that the Ohio River is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States and it is no wonder why. According to the National Resources Defense Council,
...the Ohio flows 981 miles southwest from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cairo, Illinois, where it sends more water into the Mississippi than any other tributary. Along the way, the Ohio River passes steel factories, farms, and power plants and etches out the borders between Ohio and West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, Indiana and Kentucky, and Illinois and Kentucky.
So that means a contaminant that enters the water in Pennsylvania or West Virginia could wind up in Kentucky, Indiana, and beyond.
The Ohio River Is One of the Most Polluted Bodies of Water in the US
If that isn't enough to keep you from wanting to go swimming, cook a fish you caught, or drink your tapwater (like many cities, the Ohio River is the water source for Evansville), then this just might help to nudge you over the edge and make you swear off our waterways. The folks over at AllegenyFront.org, an independently funded and award-winning public radio program that focuses on environmental issues facing Western Pennsylvania, have mapped all of the points along the Ohio River where toxic wastewater is discharged into the river. They say there are:
...roughly 6,900 toxic-containing wastewater discharges along the Ohio River
That is an alarming number and seeing it plotted on a map (see it here) makes it all the more appalling. In 2019, there were changes made to how states can regulate the pollutants in the Ohio River.
It Isn't Just the Ohio River That Is Polluted
Not only is the Ohio River a constantly flow of toxins, but more than half of the waterways in the state of Indiana are unsafe for recreational use, according to a report produced by the Environmental Integrity Project and reported by KPCNews.com,
A report by the Environmental Integrity Project found that the state of Indiana reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that 73% of rivers and streams and 23% of lakes and reservoirs have recreational use impairments, pollution that prevents those waterways from “fully supporting” recreational uses that involve bodily contact with the water, like swimming, fishing and boating.
What that means is that more than 24,000 miles of rivers and streams in Indiana have pollution, like excess E. coli bacteria and phosphorus, that make it potentially unsafe for Hoosiers to be in the water.
The percentage of impairments is so high, the state of Indiana ranks first in the nation for water recreation impairments.
Where Does Indiana Rank for Cancer Deaths?
Is it more than just a coincidence that Indiana ranks in the Top 10 for cancer deaths by state, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention? According to the statistics, Indiana ranks #7 across the country for cancer-related deaths with 162.7 per 100,000 of the total population. As it turns out, Indiana isn't the only state in our area to make the Top 10.
Ranking the Top 10
According to the CDC, these are the Top 10 states based on the cancer death rates.
#2. West Virginia
More Indiana Statistics
While heart disease and cancer may be the top two causes of death in Indiana, there are some additional statistics that I found to be shocking. The CDC says the rate of death by drug overdose in the state of Indiana is more than the rate of firearm injury and homicide combined.
- Drug Overdose Death Rate is 26.6 per 100,000
- Firearm Injury Death Rate is 14.1 per 100,000
- Homicide Death Rate is 7.2 per 100,000