A paper by The Environmental Justice and Health Alliance (EJHA), Center for Effective Government (CEG) and Coming Clean, links higher poverty to many Black and Latino communities living within chemical disaster "vulnerability zones" and say the risk of danger is much greater for those communities than for the U.S. as a whole - the very definition of disproportionate danger.
They also have higher rates of poverty than the U.S. as a whole, and have lower housing values, incomes, and education levels than the national average. The disproportionate or unequal danger is sharply magnified in the "fenceline" areas nearest the facilities, the activists behind the report write.
More than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones around 3,433 facilities in several common industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals, they say. They also say one in ten U.S. students attend school within one mile of a high-risk chemical facility.
The crude oil carrying train that derailed and caused an explosion in West Virginia was perfect timing for the release of the report. No injuries were reported at the time and the investigation is ongoing. These disasters happen every week somewhere, they say.
Paul Orum, report co-author, says, "Using EPA data and U.S. Census information, we found that populations near facilities – who live every day in danger – have lower average incomes and are more likely to be Black or Latino than the population of the whole U.S."
"We first published Toxic Wastes and Race, and Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, and never expected that people of color today would be more in harm's way from toxic chemicals." said Robert Bullard, PhD, Dean at Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University.
Environmental Racism: Minorities Are At Higher Risk For Chemical Catastrophe