2011 Environmental Justice

HEWA 2011
What do you think “Environmental Justice”
◦ What does it entail?
How about “Environmental Racism?”
◦ What are its implications?
Environmental Justice is a new term, arising in
the 1980s.
It can be considered part of the broader
‘environmental movement’ that started in the
◦ However, it is a distinct discipline in many ways.
Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and
meaningful involvement of all people regardless
of race, color, national origin, or income with
respect to the development, implementation, and
enforcement of environmental laws, regulations,
and policies…It will be achieved when everyone
enjoys the same degree of protection from
environmental and health hazards and equal
access to the decision-making process to have a
healthy environment in which to live, learn, and
work. (US EPA, 2010)
What does that mean?
◦ The community, where the average American
spends 90% of their life, is the basis of health.
◦ When the government, corporations, or other
people take advantage of a community and its
environment, the health burden increases.
What does that mean?
◦ More often than not, minority and people of low
socioeconomic status are the ones affected by this
◦ This victimization based on race or SES is what
defines environmental racism.
Why do you think that certain populations fall
victim to environmental racism?
According to the sociological and public
health literature, four major factors appear
the root causes of why minority and/or low
socioeconomic status populations are victims
of environmental racism:
Little education about the hazards
Lack of financial resources to move or affect change
Poor ability to organize
Less political influence or sway in land-use
The environmental
justice movement
is believed to have
begun in 1982 in
Shocco Township,
It was in Shocco Township, that a landfill was
built to dump polychlorinated biphenyls
PCBs cause:
◦ Birth defects
◦ Hepatotoxicity
◦ Rashes and acne
Why was Shocco
Township chosen
instead of the other
towns in Warren
County, NC?
There were many
other sites available
in the other
The other available
sites for the Warren
County PCB Landfill
were in significantly
richer neighborhoods
with larger Caucasian
populations, whereas
Shocco Township
◦ 69% African American
◦ 20% of the residents
fell below the national
poverty lines.
When the decision
was announced that
Shocco Township
would be the site
for the Warren
County PCB landfill,
racism took center
stage in the
national spotlight
for the very first
Despite the national
media attention and
protests, the landfill
was still built in
Shocco Township.
It took 25 years of
protests and
lawsuits to finally
close the landfill
and begin its
This is not an isolated incident.
◦ Pacific Gas & Energy’s dumped chromium into the
groundwater of Hinkley, CA, an incident made
famous by the 2000 film, Erin Brockovich.
◦ The Harlem Exhaust Study lent strong evidence to
the notion that children living in Harlem compared
to the rest of Manhattan inhale significantly high
levels of diesel exhaust, leading to asthma and
other poor respiratory outcomes.
 Why do you think that is?
Though anyone can be affected by poor
environmental conditions, the victims are
typically minority populations and those of
low SES.
In particular, two populations in the United
States bear the greatest burden.
◦ African Americans
◦ Latinos
Many people in the African American community
are of low SES.
As such, many are hampered by poor living
conditions and a financial inability to move.
– Many African American communities are victimized.
In urban areas, many households live in old
apartment buildings.
– These types of buildings often have not been abated of
lead and asbestos by their landlords.
– They are also disproportionately affected by highways
and other transit routes, causing respiratory illness.
– In suburban and rural areas, these communities are
often next to industrial plants, which often emit
hazardous and carcinogenic chemicals.
Many Latino populations in the United States
are also of low SES and face many similar
problems that African American communities
do as it pertains to environmental justice.
◦ This is especially compounded by the English
language barrier – which limits understanding of
government proposals and educational campaigns.
Of particular note in the Latino population is
the high prevalence of migrant farm workers,
who are often exposed to toxic pesticides.
◦ Among this population, there is also a fear of
protesting these conditions.
 Many migrant farm workers are undocumented.
 The fear of losing their livelihood also exists.
Can you think of some exposures that victims
of environmental racism would be at a higher
risk of experiencing?
Smog – Smog is a
catchall term for a
variety of gases and
aerosolized solids
that are breathed in.
Common place in
urban centers,
industrial zones, and
near landfills and
incinerators, it is a
mixture of groundlevel ozone (O3),
nitrogen dioxide,
sulfur dioxide, and
suspended solids less
than 10 m.
Smog inhalation
◦ Increased airway
◦ Airway
◦ Increased
illnesses, and
◦ Increased risk of
mortality in people
with respiratory and
Lead – Recent
estimates place the
number of American
children aged 1-5 with
high blood lead levels at
over 300,000!
Often found in urban
centers, where lead
paint in old, lower-rent
housing units are
simply covered by
additional layers of
paint rather than
Over time, the paint
peels and cracks,
forming dust that
contains the lead of
earlier paint coats. This
dust is aerosolized and
Furthermore, lead
imparts a sweet,
vanilla-like taste to the
dust and paint chips.
Infants and toddlers
thus ingest the lead en
Lead toxicity causes:
◦ Behavioral and learning
disabilities in children,
◦ Lead encephalopathy,
leading to confusion,
coma, and seizures,
◦ Acute and chronic
◦ Renal failure,
◦ Distal motor
◦ Male infertility and
spontaneous abortion
in women, and
◦ Anemia.
Pesticides – There
are over 1,000 active
pesticide chemicals
registered by the US
Protection Agency.
They span from
rodenticides to
Excessive exposure to
pesticides stems
typically from
occupation – with
Latino farm workers
being the most at
Additional exposures
come from:
Living near industrial
pesticide plants,
Overuse in lowerincome urban
housing, which comes
as a result of building
managers failing to
prevent infestations
by non-chemical
Pesticides have been
linked to:
◦ Increased airway
◦ Birth defects,
◦ Azoospermia,
◦ CNS dysfunction,
◦ Liver damage, and,
◦ Kidney damage.
Dioxins –Short for
Byproducts of a number
of industrial processes
including the synthesis
of chemicals and the
incineration of plastics
and fossil fuels.
Similar to the PCBs seen
in Shocco Township.
Dioxin poisoning
◦ Persistent acne
◦ Increased risk for
certain sarcomas,
◦ Birth defects,
◦ Central and peripheral
◦ Endocrine
◦ Female reproductive
[To be left blank for the local HEWA
coordinator to fill in.]