Utne Blogs > Environment

The Inequality of Environmental Pollution

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: Environment, Politics, pollution, minorites, low-income, community, Wiretap,

Air PollutionCompanies pollute, and when they do, that pollution disproportionately hurts low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. A new report by the Political Economy Research Institute quantified the inequality and found that nationwide, “the most polluted locations have significantly higher-than-average percentages of blacks, Latinos, and Asian-American residents.”

Certain communities are worse than others. Birmingham, Alabama, topped the list of the worst offenders, a city where minorities make up about 33.5 percent of the population, but shoulder 64.7 percent of toxic exposure to humans. Low income residents in Birmingham comprise about 13.1 percent of the population, but shoulder 23.8 percent of the toxic exposure.

The worst corporate polluters were also called out in the report, with special attention paid to the burden they placed on minorities. The research showed that 69.1 percent of the health risk from Exxon Mobil, for example, fell on minority communities.

Considering the inequalities exposed by the report, Nina Jacinto wrote for Wiretap that “An effective environmental justice movement will consider the intersections of race, culture, class and geography in its creation and implementation of laws, regulations and policies.”

For more on the issue, read Environmental Justice for All from the March-April 2008 issue of Utne Reader.

SourcesPolitical Economy Research Institute, Wiretap, Utne Reader