Latinos, Asians disproportionately exposed to toxic waste. UCI study finds certain neighborhoods more likely to be near polluting facilities.
Latinos and Asians in Southern California are disproportionately exposed to toxic waste sites, according to a new UC Irvine study.
Researchers measured residential proximity to plants manufacturing cleaning solvents, paint and petroleum products – and emitting toxic chemicals – in six heavily populated, ethnically diverse Southern California counties between 1990 and 2000.
They found that neighborhoods with a higher percentage of Latinos or Asians were more likely to be near toxic waste sites than those populated by more whites or African-Americans.
“Education and awareness may factor in here, since immigrants may not know of the risks involved in living near toxic waste sites or may come from places where pollution from such sites is a lot worse,” said the study’s lead author, John Hipp, UCI associate professor of criminology, law & society, as well as sociology and planning, policy & design.
Past research has shown that minority communities are disproportionately exposed to hazardous substances like lead, PCBs, wood dust and air pollutants, putting residents at risk for numerous diseases and disabilities.
The UCI team looked at 3,000 Southern California census tracts – defined as areas inhabited by about 4,000 people – and determined that those with 15 percent more Latinos than an average tract were exposed to 84.3 percent more toxic waste. Tracts with 15 percent more Asians were exposed to 33.7 percent more toxic waste.
According to Hipp, the findings demonstrate the need for educational outreach to minority neighborhoods, warning residents of the health risks associated with living near toxic waste sites.
Efforts at the community level may be the impetus for larger-scale policy changes that reduce exposure to toxic waste among vulnerable populations,” he said.
Results appear online in the July issue of Health & Place. Cynthia Lakon, assistant professor of public health, contributed to the study, supported by the Metropolitan Futures Initiative in UCI’s School of Social Ecology.
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s largest employer, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3.9 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.
News Radio: UCI maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UCI faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.