Chloroprene is the primary component of synthetic rubber neoprene. Its production process is highly toxic not only for the environment but also for people working in Chloroprene factories and their neighbouring communities.

There have been various studies published about the toxicity of Chloroprene production. The Guardian has made a whole series of articles about the Reserve community in Louisiana, US, which gained the distressing nickname “Cancer Alley”.
People here face a cancer risk 50 times higher than the national average & according to the EPA, the neoprene facility here presents the greatest risk of cancer from air pollution of any factory in the US. Reserve community is mainly Black.

Luckily there are alternatives. Patagonia has pioneered Yulex, an alternative to neoprene made from natural rubber from hevea trees.
The natural rubber flows out of the hevea trees for up to 30 years and provides safe jobs for those doing the harvesting and manufacturing. The process emits 80% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than neoprene. Patagonia has made Yulex technology available to all the surf and watersports industries so more companies join.

You can read The Guardian’s “Cancer Town” series here.