Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, I saw the smokestacks of Dow and DuPont chemical plants every day—but it wasn’t until later that I realized children in whiter, more affluent neighborhoods were more likely to see trees and parks instead. As I grew older, I came to realize that air pollution, Brownfields, and chemical accidents weren’t something that every family deals with. In fact, neighborhoods just across the river had tree-lined streets and rolling parks, instead of smokestacks and Brownfields. This is “environmental injustice”. Many families, especially in communities of color and poor areas, face industrial pollution and its health impacts every day—while whiter and wealthier communities breathe cleaner air and live in a less toxic environment.
Environmental injustice is a daily fact of life for millions of Americans. Because communities of color and the poor don’t have as much political power, they can’t refuse chemical plants, industrial pollution, and the health problems it contributes to. Multinational companies target our communities to carry the burden of their toxic waste—while whiter and more affluent communities benefit from a greater share of their profits. This is wrong, and it’s time for change.
That’s why we formed the Environmental Justice Health Alliance with Coming Clean: to unite environmental justice communities across the nation, find synergy in our stories, struggles and successes, and create a national movement to address the injustice of who suffers and who benefits from chemical pollution. We believe that every child, no matter the color of their skin or the wealth of their family, deserves an environment free of toxic chemicals that limit their health and potential. We believe that when every community is forced to accept the impact of pollution equally, then no community will allow pollution that could harm their children’s health. At the Environmental Justice Health Alliance and Coming Clean, we’re working every day to make that vision a reality.
--Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance (EJHA)