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More Evidence of Environmental Injustice: Redlined Areas Have Higher Levels of Pollution

Photo credit: Washington Post.

By Stephen Lester.

A study published this spring by researchers at Columbia University found that areas redlined by federal loan programs since the late 1930s ended up with more drilling wells, polluting industries, major highways, and shipping ports than non-redlined areas. This research adds to the growing body of evidence showing how communities of color are disproportionately exposed to pollution that results in increased poor health. 

“Our study adds to the evidence that structural racism in federal policy is associated with the disproportionate siting of oil and gas wells in marginalized neighborhoods,” said lead author Joan Casey, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Mailman School in a press statement. “These exposure disparities have implications for community environmental health, as the presence of active and inactive wells contribute to ongoing air pollution.”

According to an article on this study in the Washington Post, starting in the late 1930s, the federally sponsored “Home Owners’ Loan Corp (HOLC) marked areas across the United States as unworthy of loans because of an ‘infiltration of foreign born, Negro, or lower grade population’ and bordered them in red. This made it harder for home buyers of color to get mortgages; the corporation awarded A grades for solidly White areas and D’s for largely non-White areas that lenders were advised to shun.”

The researchers found that historically redlined neighborhoods that scored lowest in racially discriminatory maps drawn by the government’s loan corporation had twice the density of oil and gas wells than comparable neighborhoods that scored highest. “These wells likely contribute to disproportionate pollution and related health problems in redlined neighborhoods.”

According to the researchers’ press statement, oil and gas wells expose residents to air and water pollution, noise, and other sources of stress that can increase the risk of many types of disease: cardiovascular disease, impaired lung function, anxiety, depression, preterm birth, and impaired fetal growth. An estimated 17 million Americans live within one mile of at least one active oil or gas well.

This study provides a clear example of how institutional racism can define public policy and how it can impact people’s lives and their health for decades. 

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Polluted Zip Codes: Hampton Roads, VA

Little girl drinking lead-exposed water with her mom and sister.
Photo credit: iStock

By Arianna Mackey

I was raised in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It’s a military area with plentiful bases and government facilities. It also happens to be home to many lower-income, minority people. According to the Hampton City Council’s website, “49% of the Hampton Roads area identifies as Black or African American.” Hampton Roads also ranks very high on Environmental Justice screenings such as the EPA’s EJSCREEN and ECHO. These screening tools show that minority communities in VA rank high in Superfund site proximity, poor air and water quality, and exposure to wastewater discharges. Communities with minority and lower-income demographic indicators are often neglected in terms of environmental enforcement. Even though many of these are government facilities and have regulations to follow, they have long records of noncompliance. This is extremely detrimental to the people residing within these areas, as they may experience environmental hazards similar to the Flint, Michigan water crisis. 

In this area of Virginia, high levels of lead are often found in the dirt and water, which is a primary concern for parents with growing children. 166 out of 100,000 children in this area get lead poisoning each year. Lead poisoning is often linked to developmental and behavioral issues down the line in a child’s life. For more information and resources about lead contamination in Virginia please visit: United Parents Against Lead and Other Environmental Hazards. Residents of Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia are also being poisoned by coal dust emitted from nearby facilities and industrial plants. Gas lines in Chesapeake pose a serious threat too as they emit harmful gasses like formaldehyde and other carcinogens, not to mention running the constant risk of sudden explosion. Chesapeake also has the worst air pollution in the state due to neighborhoods surrounding compressor stations. Despite all this visible pollution, there are not any environmental justice policies in place within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Environmental justice policies must be enforced to protect the environment for all, especially lower income/minority populations.    

In addition to existing environmental racism, there are several plans and projects that will worsen the environmental degradation in the state of Virginia. Virginia Natural Gas, which serves more than 300,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in southeastern Virginia, proposed a plan in 2020 called the “Header Improvement Project” (HIP). It would consist of 3 fracked pipelines, 3 gas compressor stations, and span 24 miles, impacting various cities in Hampton Roads, such as my hometown, Chesapeake, and Prince William, Hanover, and New Kent counties. The project would also be routed solely through low-income and African American neighborhoods. Locals rebranded the effort as the “Header Injustice Project.” Fortunately, this project was halted and the permit for this gas infrastructure was denied because of the grassroots efforts by the Stop the Abuse of Virginian Energy (SAVE) Coalition. If passed, this environmentally racist and destructive pipeline could have threatened local drinking water quality, increased noise and air pollution, and jeopardized local public health and safety. 

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Is My Makeup Killing Me?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

By Sharon Franklin

For someone who has used make-up for most of my adult life, I found this article by Elizabeth Gribkoff of Environmental Health News alarming. She recently reported on a study from last summer showing that a number of cosmetics contained PFAS (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), which are a class of compounds linked to cancer and reproductive problems. She also worried that [f]or clean beauty brands, getting PFAS out of makeup might be easier said than done.” 

In the Fall of 2021, Mamavation found that dozens of makeup products contained organic fluorine, an indicator for PFAS. When first looking at the Mamavation testing results it appeared to indicate widespread contamination, and in a few cases, the intentional addition of the harmful compounds in beauty products marketed as “clean” or “green.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) has had a hands-off policy in regulating the safety of personal care products, even after multiple researchers and government officials have found PFAS-contaminated drinking water around the United States in recent years, especially near factories where PFAS is made or used in industrial processes. Researchers are especially concerned about potential PFAS exposure for fetuses and infants.  

Until 2021, there were no studies looking at how much PFAS were in North American cosmetics. With that in mind, a team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana University, and other institutions tested more than 200 mascaras, concealers, eye shadows, and other cosmetics from North America. What the researchers discovered surprised even them. They found roughly half the tested products contained the PFAS indicator organic fluorine. Of the 83 lipsticks, mascaras, and other beauty products that Mamavation tested, 54 had organic fluorine, with eight containing organic fluorine levels higher than 100 parts per million. These are amounts which experts say could indicate the intentional use of PFAS as an ingredient. See Mamavation’s full testing results.

Leah Segedie, founder of Mamavation, contacted the brands before publishing the test results. She told them that she understood their concerns around high testing costs and the amount of work it would take to ensure clean supply chains. However, she informed them that, “[T]he point is you’re still selling this makeup to people who… are paying top dollar for cleaner cosmetics that keep them safer because they have to wear it every day, [which is] all the more reason you need to figure this out.”   

The fallout from the PFAS in Cosmetics Study unleashed a torrent of news coverage, bills, and even a spate of class-action lawsuits against makeup brands like CoverGirl, bareMinerals, and L’Oreal over allegations of false advertising. Lindsay Dahl, senior vice president at the clean cosmetics brand Beautycounter has stated, “Oftentimes, those suppliers don’t know the answers to the questions you’re asking even though they should be the expert, or they don’t want to look for the answers because they don’t want to tell you what it is.” What can cosmetic consumers do to protect themselves from PFAS exposure? Consumers can visit Clearya’s website to find information that automatically screens makeup products that may contain PFAS and other hazardous ingredients. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database also provides safety reviews of thousands of cosmetics, sunscreens, and other personal care products.

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Biodiversity Loss from Pollution Impacts Human Health and Lifestyle

Image Credit: Wikipedia

By Isabella Caldarelli

Scientists recognize five mass extinction events that have occurred throughout the history of the earth. Many think that we now are living through a sixth mass extinction event, which is driven by the destruction of our natural ecosystems from an oversaturation of hazardous waste and harmful chemicals. This pollution directly impacts the rate of biodiversity loss. Yet the use and production of chemicals and industrial byproducts continues to grow because of increased population growth and consumption rates.

In 2017, it was estimated that “global sales in chemicals were worth approximately USD 3.5 trillion[…] and chemical production is expected to double in size again between 2017 and 2030.” A rise in chemical production, without proper management, mitigation, and disposal techniques, would increase the already large quantity of hazardous chemicals, litter (such as plastics and microplastics), and other pollutants that are released into the environment. This contamination is extremely widespread — more than 90% of America’s waters and fish are contaminated with pesticides. These chemicals can persist in the environment for years, destroying entire ecosystems and accelerating the rate of biodiversity loss, which is already occurring at a breakneck pace. Biodiversity loss is estimated to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate (the extinction rate that would presumably occur without human influence). Using a generous estimate of species numbers, between 10,000 and 100,000 species are becoming extinct each year.

The damage we are causing to the earth’s ecosystems and species also poses a grave personal risk as human-caused biodiversity loss among plant and animal species in turn negatively impacts our quality of life and health. Animal and plant species provide material for food, shelter, energy, and clothing. A reduction in the diversity of species in existence causes a decrease in both the amount and type of goods that can be produced for human benefit. A decrease in biodiversity could also have enormous consequences for human health, both physiologically and psychologically. As of 2013, 50% of all prescribed drugs contain or are based on plant, animal, or microbial products. A decrease in the number of plants and animals in existence would decrease the subjects available for study and use in the medical field, inhibiting the growth and capability of the medical industry. From a psychological perspective, nature has a proven positive impact on mental wellness. Nature underpins all dimensions of human health and directly contributes to non-material aspects of quality of life, such as inspiration, learning, stress reduction, and other physical and psychological experiences.

Animal species have a direct effect on the environment too. Though keystone species such as coral, wolves, and sea otters are often recognized as the linchpins of their specific ecosystems, the extinction of even minor species can have major consequences for the entire environment. For example, the extinction of pollinator species such as bees can negatively impact crop yield and food production. Likewise, the extinction of species such as dung beetles can lead to dung accumulation that causes disease. Ecosystems and the many species living within them perform functions that sustain air, water, and soil quality, regulate the climate, provide pollination, and control pests. The complete removal of a species from a singular ecosystem can have wide-ranging consequences.

Human beings are inextricably linked to the environment in which we live, and the extinction of our fellow organisms deeply impacts human lifestyle and health. Because the improper disposal of toxic waste and harmful chemicals released into the environment during production and manufacture are unchecked, our planet’s biodiversity is threatened. We need to learn to take greater care of the environment to protect ourselves and our fellow inhabitants.

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A Bad Place for an Asphalt Plant: An African American Community Fights Back

McKinley Park residents want asphalt plant shut down - Chicago Tribune
Photo credit: Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune

By Stephen Lester

Pretty regularly, CHEJ gets asked to prepare an analysis of the health risks posed by a contaminated site or a particular proposal. Not too long ago, we got an unusual request that is worth sharing. The request came from an African American community who were using a unique tactic to fight a proposed asphalt plant. Yes, they were concerned about the health risks posed by the proposed asphalt plant, but they were also concerned as a predominately African American community that they were already highly vulnerable because of the many health problems people had. Combined with the risks posed by COVID-19, the pollution coming from the asphalt would simply be too much, or so they argued.

This struck me as a terrific strategy for this community to make the case against the asphalt plant. In the letter CHEJ wrote, we made clear that asphalt plants are known to release toxic chemicals and fumes which can cause severe health problems including cancer, nervous system dysfunction, and liver damage. In particular, asphalt plants release small particulate matter (PM) that gets into the lungs and bloodstream. This can worsen pre-existing lung diseases and even causes lung disease, heart disease, and lung cancer. Such serious, lifelong health effects were reason enough to oppose an asphalt plant. But when the people exposed are highly vulnerable to this pollution, these risks are even greater.

It’s been shown that Black people bear a disproportionate amount of the health and economic burden from PM-emitting facilities in the United States. Partly because of this disproportionate burden, Black people excessively suffer from many of the respiratory conditions caused or worsened by PM. For instance, the American Lung Association in 2018 reported that Black Americans were 42% more likely than White Americans to have asthma. We wrote that racial disparities in conditions worsened by particulate matter are even more concerning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists many respiratory conditions implicated by PM, such as asthma and chronic lung disease, as risk factors for COVID-19. This means it is an especially dangerous time to introduce air pollution into Black communities due to the added risk of developing COVID-19.

At the time, evidence was growing that COVID-19 was disproportionately affecting Black and Latinx Americans. As early as April 2020, it was observed that Black people were dying from COVID-19 at higher rates than white people. While through the end of May, data showed that Black and Latinx people were three times as likely to become infected with COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from it. This staggering reality underscores how the racialized health disparities in the US have been exacerbated during the pandemic.

Particulate matter in the air causes health risks, and these risks are disproportionately shouldered by Black people. Both facts are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, making it clear that an asphalt plant emitting particulate matter would pose an unacceptable risk of disease and death to the surrounding community. CHEJ’s letter concluded that, based on scientific and public health evidence, a new asphalt plant will likely have devastating health effects on the neighborhood and community. So far, the community has succeeded in stopping the asphalt plant. 

Contact CHEJ about our capacity to evaluate health risks in your community.

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Oil Spill in Ecuador after Mudslide Damages Oil Pipeline

Photo credit: AFP 2022

By Nicholas Williams

A large oil spill occurred on Friday, January 28th, 2022 after a downpour led to a mudslide in eastern Napo Province in Ecuador. A large boulder struck an oil pipeline causing approximately 6,300 barrels, or 264,600 gallons, of crude oil to spill from this major pipeline into the Cayambe-Coca National Park. Within this park lies the Coca River which is one of Ecuador’s biggest tributaries to the Amazon River. This prominent river was coated with oil along a significant portion of its banks. The water within the Coca River is vital to many wildlife species and native people who call the riverbank home. Many of these riverside villages house the indigenous population within the region. Crude oil is toxic to ingest for both people and animals, and with the main water source being contaminated, those who depend on this river as a source of drinking water will need to rely on outside aid. This devastating result led to loss of livestock for riverbank dwellers along with foul smelling fumes that came from their water source.

The oil leak was initially reported by the owners of the pipeline, OCPEcuador, a private oil company. OCPEcuador owns the 485-kilometer oil pipe (approx. 301 miles) that pumps 160,000 barrels of crude oil daily out of oil reservoirs within the jungle. OCPEcuador also reported that the cleanup efforts resulted in recovery of 5,300 barrels of oil. The company claimed that they will spare no expense to comply with all financial remediations along with clean up responsibility. Ideally this is the case; however, it is unlikely that the ramifications of this spill will be solved in the short term. Hopefully, OCPEcuador’s readiness to take responsibility for this incident will continue into the future and includes the assurance of drinking water delivery and all attempts to rectify irreversible damage caused by oil contamination in both the near and long term.

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Is It Green or Greenwashed?


Photo credit: Joshua Coleman/Unsplash

By Hunter Marion

Sophisticated marketing might be the most dangerous method big polluters are using to undermine environmental efforts. Dangerous not only for sustaining the sale of environmentally harmful products, but also for convincing environmentally conscious consumers to buy these products. This is the marketing trick generally referred to as “greenwashing” and it occurs when “a company, product, or business practice is falsely or excessively promoted as being environmentally friendly.”

The term greenwashing derives from an article written by Jay Westerveld describing a particular experience he had in Fiji in 1986. Westerveld went surfing near a prominent hotel, the Beachcomber Resort. When he snuck into the resort looking for a towel, he noticed a peculiar message posted above them. It informed guests that they had a choice: either use their towel again (which would allegedly help to preserve the local ecology) or immediately wash it (thus polluting the local water table). This note struck Westerveld as hypocritical, seeing as the resort was then undergoing major expansion, thereby ruining the surrounding aquatic environment regardless of which way they cleaned towels. Since the article’s publication, the term has transformed into describing corporate attempts to capitalize on the growing environmental movement.

Before “greenwashing” entered the public lexicon in the late 1980s, corporations had been using similar tactics since the 1960s. U.S. electrical company, Westinghouse, portrayed its nuclear power plants as “odorless […] neat, clean, and safe,” despite several widely-publicized nuclear core issues and irresponsible nuclear waste disposal. In the 1980s, Chevron’s “People Do” and DuPont’s “Ode to Joy” ad campaigns manipulated images of bears, butterflies, dolphins, and other seemingly happy animals to repackage their oil extraction as eco-friendly -even beneficial to the endangered wildlife. Other examples of greenwashing are perhaps the two most famous concepts recognized by the average eco-minded U.S. consumer: the Crying Indian and our “carbon footprint.” The Crying Indian was neither crying, nor an Indian, instead he was an Italian-American actor named Espera Oscar DeCorti in redface. The producers of the ad, Keep America Beautiful, were a combined effort by the American Can Co., the Owens Illinois Glass Co., Coca Cola, and the Dixie Cup Co. to shift the blame of littering and plastics pollution from corporations onto individual consumers. The “blame the consumer” strategy was later revamped by BP when they asked consumers to regulate their own “carbon footprint,” meanwhile minimizing their own global impact (a practice called “decoupling”). E. Ben Harrison, is often credited as the architect behind this strategy. Through his PR firm, Harrison & Associates, and the National Environmental Development Agency (NEDA), Harrison encouraged his global corporate clients to adopt greenwashing to prevent losing significant profits and escape scrutiny from the growing environmental movement.

Besides blaming consumers for global warning, big companies also use greenwashing to sell products that have little to no eco-friendly value. Products like soap, shampoo, make-up, and bottled water often appear in ads featuring pristine nature or wild animals, have arbitrary certifications like “100% natural” or “100% eco-friendly,” display vague or misleading details about their product, such as “[t]his product contains 50% more recycled content” (also called “selective disclosure”), or are simply packaged in green. Some products even claim to be “CFC-free.” Chlorofluorocarbons have been banned from manufactured goods since 1987. Companies will also trade one heavily polluting product for another, then claim “green product” status. Differentiating between greenwashed products and truly eco-friendly products has become a taxing, often infuriating task. To avoid greenwashed products, the consumer should avoid ambiguous statements similar to those above, be distrustful of overtly green imagery or contradictory packaging, pay close attention to the labels of the guaranteeing body, and refer to third-party monitoring organizations. With awareness and careful deliberation, the average consumer can better avoid greenwashed products.

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I Am An “Accidental Environmentalist”

By Briana Villaverde, Community Organizing Intern
According to the EPA, people of color are disproportionately affected by air pollutants and are exposed at a higher rate. I have lived this statistic, fought it firsthand, and have been propelled by it into the world of environmental advocacy. My hometown, Paramount, California, is in the nation’s most Latino congressional district (CA-40). For a small city of only 4.8 square miles, it contains an overwhelming amount of metal and heavy industrial activity. This is my story of becoming an “accidental environmentalist.”
In 2016, Paramount residents rallied to stop a medical waste facility from being built in the city. This culminated in a demonstration at the city’s annual Apples with Santa Clause distribution where adults and children held signs that read, “Dear Santa, We Want Clean Air.” At the time, I was the president of my high school’s Green Club, where we focused on more basic environmentalism such as recycling and planting trees. This instance was a huge turning point for me and my understanding of organizing/environmental advocacy and that it went beyond mainstream conservationist rhetoric.

Image credit: Paramount Community Coalition Against Toxics
In 2017, I officially joined the organizing efforts with other Paramount residents to hold metal forging companies accountable for their willful polluting. Due to the volume of metal forging companies in the city and their process for treating metal at a commercial scale, many residents were experiencing irritation in their nose, throats, and lungs, as well as smelling strong metallic odors throughout the day. Children near these sites also reported shortness of breath and irritability from the odor. Community leaders filed a class action lawsuit against 8 of the prominent polluting industries in our city, but they were met with great pushbacks from electeds, other community members, and governmental agencies. We had short-lived wins when the South Coast Quality Air Management District forced companies to temporarily shut down operations that emitted hexavalent chromium, but they quickly started back up again with more “monitoring.” What this really meant was that they would increase operations at night when particulate matter was low. Additionally, our council members’ revolving door with the city’s members of the chamber of commerce left community members and myself in a constant state of disbelief with how money flowed between the city officials and these polluting companies.

Image credit: Paramount Community Coalition Against Toxics
After graduating from high school, I pursued this passion academically, majoring in Environmental Science and Policy with a minor in Chicano Latino studies at the University of California Irvine. I have interned and volunteered with natural resource management agencies and climate justice advocacy groups with my story as a grounding experience. Initially, I had set out with the intention of fighting for my community’s right to clean air and a safe environment, because that’s what I thought being an environmentalist essentially entailed. However, this path from lived experience to becoming a full-fledged and dedicated organizer is a common one that people, like me, will continue to walk. With the emergence of powerful climate justice organizations like the Sunrise Movement, Uplift, and SustainUS, I meet more and more young people of color with similar stories like mine. Their communities are also suffering from adverse health effects brought on by environmental racism and lack of corporate accountability – which leaves us with one strong choice, to become strong environmentalists. After a lot of struggles I realized that there was a shift in what I considered the role of an environmentalist – it was the love I have for my community and our right to a livable future that made me an “accidental environmentalist.”
Cover photo credit: Long Beach Press Telegram

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In COP26, Leaders Must Step Up to Fight Climate Change

By Jessica Klees, Communications Intern
Every year since 1995, delegations from many countries gather for the Conference of the Parties (COP). And now as world leaders from more than one hundred countries convene in Glasgow for COP26, it is more important than ever that nations work to heal our planet and combat climate change. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted, “History will judge us on what we achieve over the next two weeks. We cannot let future generations down.” The eyes of the world turn to this group of people as we pray that they won’t abandon us, and our future.
The leaders who attended the G-20 summit over the weekend were accused by activists of not taking enough action. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said he left the summit “with my hopes unfulfilled.” He also believes it will be “very difficult” to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times. 
The nations of the world have a great deal to do if they want to combat the climate crisis. According to CNBC, “To have any chance of capping global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the aspirational goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the world needs to almost halve greenhouse gas emissions in the next 8 years and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.” The UN has also found that out of the 191 countries taking part in the Paris Agreement, only 113 have improved their pledges for carbon reduction.
During the course of the conference, India pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2070. 100 countries each signed a pledge to end deforestation by 2030 and a pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. However, environmentalists were concerned that China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, did not introduce any new climate targets during the conference. In fact, Chinese President Xi Xinping did not attend the conference, and instead sent a written message to delegates.
Our future rests on the actions of these leaders, but there is still hope. Boris Johnson says he feels “cautiously optimistic” about the work being done at the conference, but there is still a “very long way to go.” He said, “The clock on the doomsday device is still ticking but we have a bomb disposal team on site – they are starting to cut wires.”
Photo credit: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images

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Another Community Left Behind: Santa Ana’s Lead Crisis

By: Emily Nguyen, CHEJ Science & Technical Fellow
There is no such thing as a natural disaster. This is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my academic career. While this phrase may be referring to droughts, hurricanes, and the like, its message is equally relevant to communities that have lived with toxic pollution for decades. Disasters and crises don’t decide who lives and who dies, society does. This has nothing to do with chance, but everything to do with ethnicity, race, and socioeconomic status. Similarly, who gets to live in a house with lead-based paint and who doesn’t is dictated by generations of racist environmental and housing policies. There’s nothing “natural” about that.
In California’s Santa Ana community, low-income and Latino families have been disproportionately impacted by soil lead contamination for decades. Despite leaded gasoline and lead-based paint being banned over the past 25-40 years, their toxic effects continue to plague predominantly minority communities.
Studies have shown that Latino and low-income children are among the most at risk of high blood lead levels, due to disproportionate lead exposures from living in older lead-contaminated homes, urban areas, and near industrial contamination sites. The developmental consequences of these toxic inequalities are most evident in the academic achievement gaps of Latino children compared to their white peers in the Nation’s Report Card.
In Santa Ana, a recent University of California Irvine (UC Irvine) study found that over 50% of the 1,500 soil samples gathered from residential homes were above what the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems safe (80 ppm). Researchers also estimated that 12,000 kids within these neighborhoods have been exposed to lead concentrations exceeding the US EPA’s 400 ppm federal limit for children’s residential play areas. Furthermore, neighborhoods with average median household incomes under $50,000 showed lead soil samples levels 440% higher than areas with median household incomes above $100,000.
As UC Irvine historian Juan Manuel Rubio asserts, Santa Ana’s rampant racial disparities in lead contamination are nothing short of a “manufactured crisis”; in other words, something that could have easily been prevented. Instead, decades of systemic racism in housing policies, coupled with crumbling infrastructure and aging housing stock have left residents with few options but to bear the consequences of a system rigged against them.
The first step towards effecting meaningful change for these vulnerable communities is recognizing and addressing the existing social inequalities that rendered them vulnerable in the first place. Much like natural disasters, these victims aren’t randomly selected. Every day, these individuals are chosen because of their location, economic conditions, and lack of sociopolitical power. They suffer and endure these crises because of deliberate decisions made by society. So, thousands of minority families in Santa Ana being subject to decades of toxic soil is anything but “natural.”
Photo Credit: Daniel A. Anderson/Grist