Environmental Justice is a Health Crisis

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By: Jessica Klees, Communications Intern
Research shows that among those with chronic diseases, use of health services increased as exposure to air pollution increased. It has also been shown that burning fossil fuels has had significant, direct, and harmful impacts on heart disease, lung disease, and other health problems.” Exposure to pollution hurts those who are already at the greatest risk the most. We need to protect our communities and hold polluters accountable for their actions, before even more everyday people become sick.
Through our work with affected communities, the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ), understands that environmental rights are both a racial justice as well as an economic justice issue. We have found that it is important to note that young children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and underlying health conditions are even more at risk for the negative health effects of pollution and toxic waste. These individuals disproportionately suffer more, and for them the effects of pollution and climate change are a serious health issue.
I live with type 1 diabetes, and I understand all too well how unrelenting and frustrating living with a chronic condition can be. From my personal experience, I know what it is like to live with a disease that tries to break you, mentally and physically, every single day. I am very fortunate to be able to have access to treatment and resources for my disease, but this is not the case for others who suffer with chronic conditions. Individuals who are affected by toxic chemicals are more likely to live in underserved communities with less access to healthcare treatment and resources. As I fight my own health issues, I cannot imagine the pain that people who have underlying conditions face when their health is even further impacted by pollution and poisonous chemicals. The fact that corporations willingly destroy the environment and allow people to suffer so much just so they can make a greater profit is not only horrifying, it is WRONG.
Although this health crisis is a dire issue, there is hope. We need to support efforts to reinstate the Polluters Pay Tax. This will create a mechanism for companies that poison our environment to pay to clean up the environmental disasters that they created–rather than having taxpayers pay for the cleanups, when the payments should be coming from the polluters. Currently, there is an opportunity for us to right this injustice, with the proposed Infrastructure Plan that includes a provision to reinstate the “Polluters Pay Tax.” This will enable citizens to hold corporate polluters accountable. Unfortunately, it will not alleviate all the pain of the populations that have been affected, but this will be a giant step in the right direction towards collective healing and environmental justice for individuals who live in these underserved communities.
Photo Credit: James Nielson/Houston Chronicle

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