Clean Water, Air, and Soil

Safe and non-toxic water, soil, indoor and outdoor air are imperative to ensuring community health and protecting residents. Pollution and toxic exposures impose devastating health risks on residents, which often require complex and expensive treatment and care.

Disparities and Statistics

  • Race and Ethnicity: Black, Latinx and other marginalized groups have historically been disproportionately affected by toxins from industrial plants, cars, hazardous housing conditions and other sources. Recent high-profile controversies such as Flint, where a series of failures allowed lead to leach into the drinking supply, and the Dakota Access pipeline, where protesters in North Dakota have clashed with police over concerns the Standing Rock tribe’s water will be contaminated; have elevated the profile of environmental justice. However, similar problems have dotted the US for years, often lingering stubbornly.³¹

  • Socioeconomic Status: Localities are grappling with water service costs that are increasingly unaffordable for more and more of their residents. This problem becomes especially complex in this period of widening income inequality and  reliance on regressive water billing practices, which cause low-income households to pay a disproportionate amount of their income for their water bills. One study found that water rates are already unaffordable for nearly 12% of households in the United States. In the next five years, because of increasing water prices, more than one in three households could be unable to afford their water bills, and water privatization could make this affordability challenge more severe.³²

  • Health: Environmental quality, income levels, and access to health care can all affect people’s health. People with low incomes and inadequate access to health care may also be disproportionately exposed to environmental contamination that threatens their health. Some diseases and disabilities that have an environmental component are unequally distributed across race and income levels. For example, asthma prevalence in the U.S. is significantly higher in minority and low-income populations than in the general population Compounding this problem, minorities often receive lower quality health care, and may be forced to rely more on emergency room visits, rather than routine doctor visits.³³