A tomato receives more attention from health authorities than communities poisoned by toxic pollution.

Unequal Response Unequal Protection Campaign

Federal Response to Area-Wide Chemical Exposure

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice created the Unequal Response, Unequal Protection campaign to address the federal government’s ongoing failure to protect communities exposed to toxic chemicals. This shortcoming stems from the lack of a structured federal response capacity and inadequate scientific methods for investigating chemically-associated health outcomes. Health investigations typically take years to complete and rarely generate meaningful action for communities. Additionally, The current response has a disparate impact on low-wealth populations and communities of color who disproportionately endure environmental hazards.

Project Objective and Progress

Our goal is to engage community leaders in developing a community-driven framework for conducting health investigations that prioritize public health. Federal protocols already exist for other public health emergencies, such as foodborne illnesses and natural disasters. Why not community exposure to toxic chemicals?

Through virtual meetings, CHEJ has brought together experts from around the country to discuss the structure for an improved response. We first met with community organizers to discuss flaws in the government’s current approach to evaluating chemically-associated health conditions. We brainstormed overarching principles for an alternative response and compiled a narrative detailing how we envision effective community engagement in a health investigation. We then consulted various environmental professionals to discuss technical steps of conducting health investigations.

The next step is to build grassroots support for our framework through community outreach and public presentations. We hope to eventually implement our vision into national legislation and establish an agency for effectively combating chemical contamination. 

To learn more about this project, please contact us at info@chej.org. We invite you to explore the resources below to view some of the ideas we have brainstormed at our meetings.

Project Resources

Meeting Notes