What is it?
Environmental Justice is...
- “the fair treatment of all people with respect to the development, adoption, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Environmental justice is the right to a safe, healthy, productive, and sustainable environment, where environment is considered in its totality to include the ecological, physical, social, political, aesthetic, and economic environment.” (National Association of County and City Health Officials)
- “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
Why is it important?
Evidence suggests that the risks and benefits associated with economic progress and changes in land use are not equitably distributed among the total population. For instance, a factory that emits toxic waste may end up closer to a low income neighborhood. A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) may affect the air and water quality in a rural area where it is more difficult for people to be involved in zoning changes.
Which came first, the hazardous facility or the disadvantaged population near it? That is unclear. Whatever the reason, the overall health of a society relies on the equity of all groups. Societies with the smallest gap between highest and lowest incomes are the healthiest overall. Closing that gap involves societal changes that provide everyone with equal choices in matters affecting human health.
What is Washington State doing?
- The Washington State Board of Health is committed to reducing health disparities, including those related to environmental justice.
- Several Washington State Department of Health programs focus on health disparities among different groups, including asthma and tobacco.
View the Data
Where can I find more information about Environmental Justice Issues?
View bibliographies in the Berkeley Workshop on Environmental Politics to find related information.
For information or questions related to the Washington Tracking Network, email DOH.WTN@doh.wa.gov.
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