Race-ing the environment

October 20, 2010

From Polluted Promises, p. 13:

Race, numerous studies tell us, is the most potent variable in predicting where hazardous waste facilities are located — more powerful than poverty, land values, or homeownership. Three out of every five African Americans and Hispanics and roughly 50 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans live in communities containing at least one uncontrolled toxic waste site. The percentage of African Americans or Latinos in a census tract significantly predicts whether that tract hosts a toxic waste facility. African Americans are more than three times more likely than whites to die from asthma, and the hospitalization rate for African Americans with asthma is three times that for whites. Moreover, a National Law Journal investigation from 1992 discovered that in minority areas, it took 20 percent longer to put hazardous waste sites on the national priority lists than it did in white areas, and penalties under hazardous waste laws were about 500 percent higher at sites having the greatest white population than penalties at sites with the greatest minority population. Such environmental disparities are widespread throughout the United States, but the South has had particularly lax environmental policies. As a result, the region (which houses m ore than half of the nation’s African American citizens) claims eight of the ten states ranked worst in terms of pollution, poor health, and environmental policies. In the EPA’s southeastern region, three out of the four largest hazardous waste landfills in the region sit in majority black areas.

See also Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty 1987-2007.


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