People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely to live near dangerous chemical facilities than whites and people with incomes above the poverty line.
Social inequality in the U.S. has expanded over the past several decades and is linked to poor health, including one-third of deaths in the United States. The median net worth of people of color is just 13 percent of that of whites, and their median income is 60 percent of white incomes. The poverty rate for blacks and Latinos is more than twice that of whites.
There is also compelling evidence that increasing social inequality is linked to environmental degradation and that the health of people of color and those living in poverty is negatively impacted by being exposed to higher levels of environmental pollution than whites or people not in poverty.
A previous report by the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform found that a significantly greater percentage of blacks, Latinos, and people in poverty live near industrial facilities that use large quantities of toxic chemicals, compared to national averages. An earlier study found that larger, more chemical-intensive facilities tend to be located in counties with larger black populations and in counties with high levels of income inequality. It also found a greater risk of incidents at facilities in heavily black counties.
This report builds on that past work and a previous report by the Center for Effective Government that examined the number of children who attend schools located within the vulnerability zones of over 3,400 high-risk chemical facilities that report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Risk Management Program (RMP). This program encompasses the most dangerous industrial facilities that produce, use, or store significant quantities of toxic and flammable chemicals. Vulnerability zones, which are self-reported by industrial facilities, predict the maximum distance that a worst-case chemical incident could reach; they vary in size from less than one mile to as large as 40 miles.
Since communities in closest proximity to these hazardous facilities would likely suffer the greatest impacts from an explosion or chemical release – and would have the least amount of time to escape these dangers – this report focuses on the demographics of the people living within one mile (the so-called "fenceline zone") of all 12,545 facilities in the Risk Management Program.
Use our interactive map to search for your children's school or for your neighborhood to see how close you and your children are to a hazardous facility. And click here to view your state's scorecard.
Our Report Findings:
People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely to live in these fenceline zones than whites and people with incomes above the poverty line.
Many children live and go to school near these dangerous facilities.
A disproportionate number of chemical facility incidents occur in neighborhoods that are predominately populated by people of color.
The findings of this report reinforce results from numerous other studies that demonstrate that the health and safety of communities of color and people in poverty are severely and unequally impacted by living in close proximity to hazardous pollution sources and dangerous chemical facilities.
Our Full Report: