Giving Compass' Take:
- Krystal Vasquez explains that environmental justice research fails to include information about people with disabilities, more than 25% of the U.S. population, even though research suggests this group is likely to be impacted.
- What role can you play in supporting more comprehensive research into and solution development for environmental injustice?
- Read about taking action on climate justice.
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Despite a revived national focus on environmental injustice, one group remains largely ignored: disabled people, who make up more than 25 percent of the U.S population.
Even the definition of environmental justice provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn't currently include disability.
Yet, a recent study suggests that disability status — especially in combination with race, ethnicity and income — can determine how much environmental harm one could be exposed to.
Pollution in the U.S. has never been evenly distributed. Our long history of discriminatory housing and zoning laws have forced marginalized groups to live in areas that disproportionately expose them to environmental hazards — the effects of which are still present today.
In response, environmental justice researchers have spent decades trying to document these inequalities. What started out with a focus on Black and Brown Americans, has since expanded to include other marginalized groups, such as low-income households, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community.
Few studies also consider disability. But in one of these rare studies, Jayajit Chakraborty, a professor of geography at the University of Texas at El Paso, observed that Houston neighborhoods located near pollution sources — such as Superfund sites and hazardous waste facilities — were home to a significantly higher proportion of disabled people compared to the rest of the city. In addition, race, ethnicity and age all further amplified these inequalities — disabled people of color and those aged 75 or older both lived in even closer proximity to polluted areas, likely decreasing their quality of life.
Read the full article about environmental justice research by Krystal Vasquez at GreenBiz.