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By Anthony Jerrod

Environmental justice is an evergreen concept that focuses on the right of all people to be protected from air and water pollution, pesticides, abandoned waste sites and similar hazards, regardless of ethnicity, income level or any other categorization.  Therefore, there should not be any groups of people that disproportionately suffer adverse environmental and health issues (i.e., birth defects, cancer and various acute and chronic diseases) due to being placed in locations that generate significant amounts of pollution and waste.

Unfortunately, historic and current evidence indicates that toxic waste facilities are too often placed in minority and low-income communities.  To address this issue, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state and local environmental agencies have attempted to reduce the frequency of these asymmetrical occurrences through permitting and regulations.  Despite these efforts, environmental injustices continue to be a major problem for minority and low-income communities, as evinced by a plethora of ongoing and new legal battles.

The following ten cities represent predominantly African-American areas where a robust presence of environmental injustices exists, according to statistical data. Background analysis included a review of over 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), environmental justice cases, recent EPA Toxic Release Inventory release data, census tract and demographic information, air quality, water quality and Superfund site (i.e., abandoned hazardous waste) statistics.

Detroit, MI

  • MSA:  Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI
  • Number of unhealthy air quality days (2009):  26
  • Pounds of on-site and off-site releases (2009):  20.9 million

According to Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, there is an estimated 60,000 contaminated parcels of land in the city of Detroit.

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