Henry Clark

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EJHA report: People of color most vulnerable to toxic chemical disasters

They are ‘treated as if they are disposable human beings
By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Blacks, Latinos and other people of color, and low-income residents are disapportionately in harm’s way if a worst-case factory disaster occurs. A new report, “Who’s In Danger? Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters,” by the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance (EJHA), a national coalition of grassroots groups, studied 3,433 facilities nationwide, including 52 in Minnesota, that manufacture chemicals, blench, pulp and paper; water treatment plants; electric power plants; and oil refineries that store or use “highly hazardous chemicals.”

The 200-page report concerns residents living in “vulnerability zones” — areas up to 20 miles in all directions of the facility — that are less likely to escape from a toxic or flammable chemical emergency. It found that such residents are disproportionately Black or Latino, have higher rates of poverty, and have lower housing values and education levels lower than the national average. The potential dangers include “a toxic gas cloud or blast” or factory leaks that could “go undetected for days.”

The EJHA report lists chemical manufacturing plants, bleach manufacturing plants, and water treatment plants as the three industries with the highest numbers of facilities that can affect the most people. Continue Reading →

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