United States	EPA 20Q-F-93-001
Environmental Protection January 1994
Office of Environmental Justice (3103)
A EPA Serving A
Diverse Society
EPA's Role In

What Is Environmental Justice?
Environmental justice means that all people
have an opportunity to live in a healthy
environment. All people should be able to
breathe clean air, drink clean water and
consume uncontaminated foods.
Unfortunately, today, this is still a goal.
Historically, the poor, immigrants, minorities,
and some city dwellers have lived in polluted
and less desirable areas. However, awareness
and concern about inequities in the distribution
of environmental hazards are increasing. Some
examples of environmental inequities are:
Lead. Low income, African American children,
particularly low income groups, consistently
have higher than normal levels of lead in their
blood. The primary pathway for this exposure
is from ingestion of paint containing lead, often
found in older housing. Almost two thirds of
American housing units were built before 1970.
Although the use of lead paint for houses was
banned in the 1970s, older homes often contain
paint with high concentrations of lead, lead in
water from pipes and fixtures, and lead in dust
and soils.
Waste Sites. Low income, quite often
minorities, are more likely than other groups to
live near landfills, incinerators, and hazardous
waste treatment facilities. Recent studies have
found that the proportion of people of color in
communities which have a commercial
hazardous waste facility is approximately
double that in communities without such
Air Pollution. In 1990, 437 of the 3,109 counties
and independent cities in the U.S., failed to meet
at least one of EPA's ambient air quality
standards. Many Americans live in these
communities: 57 percent of all whites, 65 percent
of African Americans, and 80 percent of

©1991 by Sam Kittner
Pesticides. Ninety percent of the approximately
two million hired farm workers in United States
are people of color, including Chicanos, Puerto
Ricans, Caribbean blacks, and African
Americans. Through direct exposure to
pesticides, farm workers and their families may
face serious health risks; it has been estimated
that as many as 313,000 farm workers in the
United States may suffer from pesticide-related
illnesses each year.
Wastewater. Modern sewage systems were
developed to carry sewage and storm water
separately to prevent overflow problems that
are common in older, urban areas. Many inner
cities still have sewer systems that are not
designed to handle storm overflow; as a result
raw sewage may be carried into local rivers and
streams during storms, creating a health hazard.

EPA's Role
In !MU2, ITA created the Office ot Pm ironmen-
tal lustice to address environmental impacts
affecting mmoritv ami low income communi-
ties. 1 he Office's functions inchalei
•	coordinating u ith other federal agencies
on en\ ironmental justice issues;
•	prov idmg communication. outreach,
education, and training for the public:
•	providing technical and financial
assistance io outside groups; ami
•	serving as a central repositorx ot
em ironmental justice information.
Your Role
¦	LEARN about the community in which you
are working. How familiar are you with its
population? For example, are t lie re people who
don't speak I'nglish w ell, people who can't read,
or people who are shut in' Will work schedules
keep people from attending community
~>2 million < 14 percent) of the people in the U.S.
'-peak a language other than I'nglish at home,
lor example in California, 5.5 million people
-peak Spanish and 0,6 million speak Chinese at
home. Over 17 million (8 percent) of people
living in the U.S. -.peak Spanish at home,
\re important announcements and information
such as tish advisories and Superfund site fact
sheets a\ a liable to non-Fnglish speakers1 What
!s the educational level of people in (he
communities1 I low diverse is the community'
¦	CONSIDER children. Children are especially
\ ulnerahie to harm irom toxic substances and
niav he exposed through normal plav,
intergcnerahonal equitv means that younger or
older generations, or future generations, should
not bear a greater environmental burden. Is
there a relatively high population of children in
the neighborhood? I )o children plav outdoors

where they may come in contact with
contaminated soil and water? Do cleanup
remedies suggest unrealistic goals such as
prohibiting children from playing outdoors?
¦	UNDERSTAND cultural diversity. Many
cultural groups, e.g. African Americans,
Americans Indian and Alaskan Native, and
Asian Pacific Americans, depend upon fishing
to augment their diets either because of poverty
or tradition.
Of the 250 million Americans; 49 million (20
percent) are African Americans, Indian
Americans, and Asian Americans. 22 million (9
percent) are Hispanic Americans.
Dopeople garden and rely upon food they grow
in soil that is or may become contaminated?
How do they water their garden?
People may be exposed to toxics through
multiple sources. Do some people receive,
additional exposure to toxics at work or because
they live in older housing?
¦	REALIZE that poverty severely limits options
and opportunities. Low income groups cannot
always move away from undesirable places, do
not have adequate health care to identify
environmental disease, and may suffer more
Many low income persons do not own vehicles
and do not have access to county, state, or
federal parks for recreation. Not only do they
miss out on quality outdoor experiences, they
fish, swim and play in areas that are
Are they more exposed to auto emissions even
though they don't own vehicles because they
live in inner cities, close to heavily traveled
streets and freeways?
This pamphlet is for EPA employees who would like to
know more about environmental justice. If you work
in communities, support those that do, write
regulations which affect people or communities, or
answer an EPA hotline, you have a role in justice.

©1991 by Sam Kittner

Working With Communities
EPA's Community Involvement Coordinators
have suggested a number of communication
techniques for working with low income and
minority communities.
•	Take the community seriously
•	Listen to what they have to say
•	Make more use of facilitators
•	Identify and work with informal
communication networks
•	Get out early and talk with communities
•	Work with minority media
•	Recognize that minorities are not usually
members of national environmental
groups and may need to be reached
through other means
•	Hold regional workshops with
community leaders
•	Build bridges for long term planning
•	Be sensitive to working with cultural
•	Involve local Minority Academic

To Learn More:
Call fhe Office to he pbced on the mailing list for
the Envro imeni.il Justice Update Ki mo or to
find n<' r w ho your K> ponal justice contac f is.
Office of
Environmental Justice: (202) 260-6357
Toll-free number
for concerned citizens: 1-800-962-6215
C	> o-
U -> r>w,ronmrnfal Protection Agi'nry
Oft if < ot Fm nomnental Justice
i contact the regional
coordinator' !or youi i»tate.
U.S. EPA - Region 1
U.S. EPA - Region 6
jil Bldg p - ~ ' i ' " 7 i 1
r i i H, , i
	-i-"0. Vermont)
U.S.EPA- Region 2
itz Federal Bldg
1 10278
morse ic) 264-2301
(Mew Jersey. New York, Puerto
Rico, Virgin islands)
_ Daa "•**•<* t
?nd. Pertnsy
U.S. EPA - Region 4
eet. NE
Dallas,TX 75202-2733
Phone <214) 855-6444
rMew Mexico, uuanoma, lexasj
U.S. EPA-Region 7
728 Minnesota Awefiye
Kansas CHy.KS 86101
Phone (913) 551-7282
{Iowa, Kansas, Missouri.
U.S. EPA . Region 8
993 t8itl	0
Denver, C
Phone (I _ jew
(Cotorad	i. North
Dakota, , Ua*ota, Utah,
U.S. EPA - Region 9
75	SlnOBf
U.S. EPA - Region 5
" • .> •, • ksor> Boulevard
U.S. EPA - Region 10
12C	enue
Ph( . " }29
(Alaska,	gon.