The Fight for Equal Protection

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By Judith Eppele, Community Organizing Intern
Have you ever wished you were a tomato? Probably not, but in the context of health issues, you may change your mind. Think about how fast health authorities respond to E. coli outbreaks in lettuce, Listeria in milks and cheeses, or even Salmonella in–you guessed it–tomatoes. Now think about health issues caused by pollution. How long has Flint, Michigan been without clean drinking water? Objectively, way too long. The disparity between the length of these responses–or lack thereof–is obvious and appalling. Thankfully, CHEJ has recognized this problem and is actively working to fix it, through our Unequal Response Unequal Protection campaign.
This campaign has been the main focus of my internship with CHEJ thus far, and so I’ve had firsthand experience with finding a solution for the Unequal Response issue. Most notably is trying to figure out how to build a model from the ground up that gives communities a fair and equal response to public health issues, in which an entity has to meet with them and have a conversation about the specific issue in their community. One of my favorite parts of this model is that it’s a joint effort between the community members and the health authority entity. Therefore, the entity and community members will be in conversation with each other throughout the process. This will allow for community members to finally be justly heard and respected in their fight against toxic chemicals, and nothing can be swept under the rug without them knowing. Further, the entity is able to make a more informed decision on what the actual problem is and how best to solve it, as they’re able to have constant communication with the community at hand. This ensures for a more transparent and efficient health investigation affair, and thus a win-win situation.
Eventually, we’d like for the Unequal Response Unequal Protection campaign to be implemented into national legislation. Doing so would be monumental for community groups across the country–possibly being the best thing since sliced bread! We are one step closer to living in a world where people are able to live peacefully in a safe and healthy community, with no fear of chemicals in their drinking water, food, or air. After living a year in a world where safety and health are never promised, a type of national legislation that covers the environmental aspect of health issues could not be more welcome.
In case you’d like to read more about the goals of Unequal Response Unequal Protection and our progress thus far, feel free to check out the page on our website HERE. You can also email us at info@chej.org if you have any questions or comments, or if you’d like to join us on our campaign journey. In the fight against toxic chemicals, the more support from awesome people like you, the better. Let’s win this fight together!
Photo Credit: CNN

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