A Cloud Over The Community: Pollution’s Impact On Our Health And What You Can Do

May 3, 2012  |  

Caring about everyday issues like pollution, contaminated water and the environment seem fairly new, insignificant, and sometimes unimportant in the Black community overall, but it’s making more of an impact on this community than any other.

Recent studies and statistics from the Center for American Progress conclude that many physical ailments in the African-American community, like asthma, diabetes and lung cancer, are due to air and trash pollution and power plants, and the rates of those illnesses are very disproportionate compared to other communities.

The Center for American Progress reported that for many people of color, including Hispanic Americans, air pollution is an “unavoidable feature of daily life because they are more likely to live and work in the nation’s most polluted cities.” In a study conducted nationally, only 56 percent of the white population lives within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, plants which lead to related illnesses like asthma and lung disease. This was compared to a dramatic 68 percent of African-Americans.

In addition, Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely to reside near facilities that contain wastes that are harmful and full of pollutants: “Arsenic (used commercially as a rat poison) and lead are among the toxic chemicals that may be concentrated at these sites.

Accessibility to medical care and health insurance also plays a role in this disparity. According to the research:

“Existing health disparities and high uninsured rates among communities of color compound these health consequences. Racial and ethnic minorities make up a majority of the 50 million Americans who are uninsured, despite constituting only about one-third of the U.S. population. These high uninsured rates mean that the very same populations imperiled by environmental toxins may be unable to obtain necessary medical care.”

Although these statistics look grim, small changes in the community are all we need to start taking care of this issue head on. Although new EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) rules will help these communities breathe easier, making your home more green and environmentally-friendly could make the real difference in your family’s overall health. They might not get rid of all the pollution and dangers outside, but caring more about the environment, starting within your own home, could do wonders for your health, save you money and a lot more. Start with these three simple steps that could have a major positive impact, if you haven’t already started:

Recycle: Recycling old cardboard, glass, cans, paper and plastic are very easy and safer for your community than just throwing everything away in the same trash. Use recyclable bins or plastic bags to gather up these materials. You could even make this task into a chore that is family friendly, labeling bins for each material to keep them separate.

Use Energy Wisely: Power plants thrive off the amount of energy we use, so turn off (and unplug) energy-draining appliances like your phone charger when it’s not in use. You’d be surprised how many appliances are always plugged into outlets and aren’t connected to a product, but still are sucking up electricity. This is making your bill higher and wasting currency.

Be H2O Friendly: Encourage your family to turn off water when not in-use during forgettable moments like taking a shower, brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. If you are not directly using it, turn it off for the moment.

Enthusiasm over going green should not be labeled to one group of people because it impacts us all, most of all, people of color. We must change the way we see our ways of living, which are embedded within our culture, and allow those rituals to change with the times, for our health’s sake. Caring for our environment and community of color is one big step towards ensuring our health and longevity.

How do you care for the environment?

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