Every human being has the basic rights of having clean water, land and air. Unfortunately these basic rights are being violated, leading to Environmental Injustices in communities of color and low income. Before we begin talking about environmental injustices let see what Environmental Justice is. Environmental Justice is according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website its states that Environmental Justice means the fair treatment and involvement of all people regardless of their race, color, income, or origin when it comes to enforcing and making environmental laws/policies (EPA 2018). Environmental Injustices happen when the fair treatment and involvement of is not being met when it comes to enforcing and making environmental laws/policies.
In the article written by Campbell et al (2016) they explain the environmental injustices that happened in Flint, Michigan. The government in the state and federal levels failed to provide the people of Flint, Michigan with clean water as their water was contaminated with high levels of lead. In Flint, Michigan their majority of their population were Blacks and African Americans of low income minorities. Within the article it explains how Blacks and African Americans of low income minorities were more at risk of being exposed to lead. Later the article goes on to speak how led exposure can affect children health wise.
The lead contamination begun in Flint, Michigan switched their water supply from Lake Huron to Flint River. The switch was approved by The Flint Watery Advisory Task and Governor Sydney in order to improve financially without caring about the environmental impacts. When the switch happened they did treat the water pipes with anti-corrosion in order to prevent lead particles and solubilized lead from being released into the water. Therefore they violated the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule of treating their water pipes before making the switch. When national water expert Dr. Marc Edwards found out that residents were being exposed to 140ppb levels of lead and higher when the legal limit of the lead exposure is 15pbb he spent years writing to the EPA to get them to see what was happening in Flint. They didn’t do anything about it therefore in 2016 he went upon Congress that the EPA was not alert for what was happening in Flint. He as well published papers in order to get public to know what was happening. It was stated in the article that if water contamination was not made public families living in Flint would have no idea in what living conditions they were living and would probably still be living in the same conditions to this day.
Throughout the outburst of this contamination the ones that were most affected were low income Blacks and African Americans. Dr. Moana Hanna-Attisha a pediatrician produced a study where she used blood levels of children in Flint that were taken in 2013 before the lead water contamination and used blood levels after the contamination (2015). She found that the lead blood leveled doubled from 2013 to 2015. She then goes on to state that the children in Flint unfortunately had high risk levels of being contaminated with lead levels because they lived in poverty and were low income as well because they lived in old houses that the paint used in the homes contained lead. Being low income causes families to not go to the doctors and the only way to see that you are being exposed to lead in by going to the doctors and taking specific testing. Lead was able to cause immediate poisoning in some of its residents but others run the risk of this negative health impacts to surface slowly as low- level exposure causes hypertension and kidney damage but it does not present itself until years after the exposure. In children the health impacts are worse it leads to reduction in intelligence, attention, behavior and messes with neurological functions. Causing children to have impaired language skills, shortens their attention, show aggressive behavior/ etc.
The Flint Watery Advisory Task and Governor Sydney stated in the Michigan Department of Environmental Equality that their Flint water was safe. As we can see they were wrong. Instead they made the residents of Flint have health impacts. Luckily now the community is providing help to those exposed. The Flint Water Task Force enforces for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to start a Flint Toxic Exposure Registry to follow up with them on their blood lead levels. Dr. Hanna-Attisha established the Flint Child Health and Development Fund to provide support for the children and their families with medical help and overall improve their lives. Lastly federal state, local and municipal authorities need to better improve the way they handle environmental issues. It was made an Executive Order by President William Clinton which required all federal level government to ensure they are providing environmental justice.
Environmental injustices have occurred throughout years and the Civil Rights Movement, Academics, Grassroots Organizations, Native American Struggles and Labor Unions have all played a huge role into converting these environmental injustices into environmental justices. In the book From the ground up: Environmental racism and the Rise of the environmental Justice Movement Cole et al (2001) it explains how the Civil Rights Movement played a huge role in environmental justice. Throughout this movement Blacks and Africans Americans were fighting for their rights to be treated equally. For example the people of Flint, Michigan are majority black and they are treated equally since The Flint Watery Advisory Task and Governor Sydney did not care about the negative impacts that were going to happen to them with the water change. All they cared about was the money. The Civil Rights Movement will keep on fighting to have equal rights for people of color. Later in the book it shows how Academics have also played a huge role in environmental justice. Dr. Robert Bullard began to study Houston’s lands in the 1970’s and found that people of color and low income were living close to dumps and found that there were no whites living near. Later in 1990 Dr. Bullard got together with others and formed a series of academic research about minorities facing environmental injustices. Academics research helped these injustices to reach the White House into signing the Executive Order on Environmental Justice. Without the academics it would have not be known what injustices were happening to people of color.
In the book as well it shows how Grassroots Organizations also played a huge role in environmental justice has communities of the affected created multiple organizations to get their voices heard and in many cases won their fights. Native American struggles also plays a role in environmental justice. Native Americans are one with their environment, their whole lifestyle goes around with their environment. Native American Activists fought to see that having dump site, oil refineries etc causes their land to become toxic to their own self. Later in 1990 the Indigenous Environmental Network was formed to protect Native Americans from having their lands become contaminated. Finally the Labor Unions also played a huge role in Environmental Justice. It all started when farm workers were being forced to work with dangerous pesticides. Land owners did not care as all they cared about was the profit they would make. For this a farm worker by the name of Cesar Chavez led an organization to force land owners to protect farm workers. If it wasn’t for Cesar Chavez Committees on Occupational Safety and Health would have not increased protection of environmental hazards faced by workers.
No person should have to face Environmental Injustices. Unfortunately people of color and low income minorities are still facing these tragedies, causing their own health to deteriorate. The residents of Flint, Michigan had an environmental injustice occur to them. Luckily it was made public and those who were at fault can fix it. There has been many environmental injustices that have occurred but thankfully for Civil Rights Movement, Academics, Grassroots Organizations, Native American Struggles and Labor Unions they have all played a huge role into making these environmental injustices known and because of them organizations like the EPA have formed.
Works Cited Page
Environmental Justice. (2018, October 04). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice
Campbell, C., Greenberg, R., Mankikar, D., ; Ross, R. D. (2016). A case study of environmental injustice: The failure in Flint. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(10), 951.
Cole, L. W., ; Foster, S. R. (2001). From the ground up: Environmental Racism and the rise of the environmental justice movement. New York: New York Univ. Press.