Thursday, April 26, 2007

No Progress On Toxic Wastes & Race

Apr 10: Environmental injustice in people-of-color communities is as much or more prevalent today than 20 years ago, according to researchers commissioned to conduct a follow-up to the 1987 landmark study, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. The new report, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, 1987-2007: Grassroots Struggles to Dismantle Environmental Racism in the United States, shows that 20 years later, disproportionately large numbers of people of color still live in hazardous waste host communities, and that they are not equally protected by environmental laws.

Robert Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University and the principal investigator for the study said, "People of color across the United States have learned the hard way that waiting for government to respond to toxic contamination can be hazardous to their health and health of their communities." The 160-page report, which was commissioned by the United Church of Christ and produced by scholars at Clark Atlanta University, the University of Michigan, the University of Montana and Dillard University, points to the dismal post-Katrina response in New Orleans as one poignant example of unequal treatment of minorities in hazardous waste emergencies. The findings also show that environmental laws don't protect communities of color any more than they did 20 years ago when the original report was commissioned.

According to a release, the report is the first national study to use a new method of data analysis that better locates people in relation to hazardous waste sites, and uses 2000 census data to show that the racial disparities are much greater than previously reported. Robin Saha, assistant professor of environmental studies at University of Montana said, "We think this study and the findings in it, as well as the case studies that show the human side to the national statistics, make a really strong case for environmental injustice to be on the policy agenda of Congress. It's clear the policies we are trying aren't working and that something else needs to be done."

The report indicates that more than nine million people are estimated to live in host neighborhoods within three kilometers of one of 413 hazardous waste facilities nationwide. Host neighborhoods are typically economically depressed, with poverty rates 1.5 times that of non-host communities. The report makes more than three dozen recommendations for action at the Congressional, state and local levels to help remedy the disparities. It also makes recommendations for nongovernmental agencies and industry.

Access a lengthy release with links to the complete report an Executive Summary and university contacts (
click here). [*All]