United States	EPA 200-F-93-003
Environmental Protection October 1993
Office of Environmental Equity	(3103)
&EPA Serving A
Diverse Society
EPA's Role In
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What Is Environmental Equity?
Environmental equity means that all people
have an opportunity to live in a healthy envi-
ronment. All people should be able to breathe
clean air, drink clean water and consume
uncontaminated foods.
Unfortunately, today, this is still a goal. Histori-
cally, 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 minori-
ties, 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 hazard-
ous waste facility is approximately double that
in communities without such facilities.
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

Pesticides. Ninety percent of the approxi-
mately 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 1992, EPA created the Office of Environmen-
tal Equity to address environmental impacts
affecting minority and low income communi-
ties. The Office's functions include:
•coordinating with other federal agencies on
environmental equity issues;
•providing communication, outreach,
education, and training for the public;
•providing technical and financial assistance
to outside groups; and
• serving as a central repository of environ-
mental equity information.
Your Role
•	LEARN about the community in which you
are working. How familiar are you with its
population? For example, are there people who
don't speak English well, people who can't
read, or people who are shut in? Will work
schedules keep people from attending commu-
nity meetings?
32 million (14 percent) of the people in the U.S.
speak a language other than English at home.
For example in California, 5.5 million people
speak Spanish and 0.6 million speak Chinese at
home. Over 17 million (8 percent) of people
living in the U.S. speak Spanish at home.
Are important announcements and information
such as fish advisories and Superfund site fact
sheets available to non-English speakers? What
is the educational level of people in the commu-
nities? How diverse is the community?
•	CONSIDER children. Children are especially
vulnerable to harm from toxic substances and
may be exposed through normal play.
Intergenerational equity 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? Do children play outdoors
where they may come in contact with contami-
nated 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, Native
Americans, and Vietnamese, 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, Native Ameri-
cans, and Asian Americans. 22 million (9
percent) are Hispanic Americans.
Do people garden and rely upon food they
grow in soil that is or may become contami-
nated? 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 be-
cause 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 exposure.
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 contami-
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?
litis pamphlet is for EPA employees who would like to
know more about environmental equity. 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 equity.

Copyrigh! 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 communi-
cation 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
•	Hold regional workshops with community
•	Build bridges for long term planning
•	Be sensitive to working with cultural diver-
•Involve local Minority Academic Institutions

To Learn More:
Call the Office to be placed on the mailing list for the
Environmental Equity Update Memo. For more
information contact ihe regional coordinators for your
(202) 260-6357
Office of
Environmental Equity:
Toll-free number
for concerned citizens:
U.S. EPA - Region
John F.Kennedy Federal
One Congress Street
Boston,MA 02203
James Younger (617) 565-3420
(Connecticut, Maine.
Massachusetts, New
Rhode Island. Vermont)
L .S.EPA Region 2
Jacob K. Juvit/ Federal
26 Federal Pla/a
New York.NY I027X
Conrad Simon (212) 264-2301
i New Jersey. New York. Puerto
Rieo. Virgin Islands)
U.S.HPA Region 3
S4I Chestnut Building
Philadelphia.PA 19107
Dominique Luckenhoff
I Delaware. District of
Columbia. Maryland.
Pennsylvania. Virginia,
West Virginia I
U S. EPA - Region 4
345 Counland St. NH
Allanta.GA 30365
Vi\iun Jones
(404) 347-7900
(Alabama, Florida. Georgia.
Kentucky. Mississippi. North
Carolina. South Carolina
U.S. EPA - Region 5
77 West Jackson Boulevard
Cbieago.lt. 60604
William Sanders
(312» 353-380H
I Illinois, Indiana. Michigan,
Minnesota. Ohio. Wisconsin)
U.S. EPA - Region 6
First Interstate Bank Tower
at Fountain Place
1445 Ross Ave, 12th Floor
Suite 1200
Dallas.TX 75202-2733
Lynda Carroll
(Arkansas, Louisiana.
New Mexico. Oklahoma.
U.S. HPA - Region 7
726 Minnesota Avenue
Kansas City.KS 66101
Rupert Thomas
(Iowa, Kansas, Missouri,
U.S. HPA - Region 8
999 18th St. Suite 500
Denver.CO 80202-2405
Elmer Chenaull
(Colorado, Montana. North
Dakota. South Dakota. I llah.
U.S. F1PA - Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco,CA 94105
Lori Lewis (415) 744-1561
(Arizona, California. Hawaii,
Nevada. American Samoa.
U.S. KPA - Region 10
1200 Sixth Avenue
Seatle.WA 98101
Joyce Crosson
(206) 553-4029
(Alaska, Idaho. Oregon.