251816 Playing it safe: Assessing cumulative impact and social vulnerability through an environmental justice screening method

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 8:48 AM

Rachel A. Morello-Frosch, PhD, MPH , School of Public Health & Dept of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
James Sadd, PhD , Environmental Sciences, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA
Manuel Pastor, PhD , Departments of American Studies and Geography, Program on Environmental and Regional Equity, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and state authorities like the California Air Resources Board (CARB), have sought to address the concerns of environmental justice (EJ) advocates who argue that chemical-by-chemical and source-specific assessments of potential health risks of environmental hazards do not reflect the multiple environmental and social stressors faced by vulnerable communities. We propose an Environmental Justice Screening Method (EJSM) as a relatively simple, flexible and transparent way to examine the relative rank of cumulative impacts and social vulnerability within metropolitan regions and determine environmental justice areas based on more than simply the demographics of income and race. We specifically organize 24 indicator metrics into three categories: 1) hazard proximity and land use; 2) air pollution exposure and estimated health risk; and 3) social and health vulnerability. For hazard proximity, the EJSM uses GIS analysis to create a base map by intersecting land use data with census block polygons, and calculates hazard proximity measures based on locations within various buffer distances. These proximity metrics are then summarized to the census tract level where they are combined with tract centroid-based estimates of pollution exposure and health risk and socio-economic status (SES) measures. The result is a cumulative impacts (CI) score for ranking neighborhoods within regions that can inform diverse stakeholders seeking to identify local areas that might need targeted regulatory strategies to address environmental justice and school siting concerns.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate methods for assessing the cumulative impacts of environmental and social stressors.

Keywords: Environmental Justice, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked to develop methods to assess the cumulative impacts of environmental and social stressors to inform regulatory science and decision-making and to advance environmental justice goals.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.