Environmental justice is the idea that all people and communities have the right to live and thrive in safe, healthy environments with equal environmental protections and meaningful involvement in these actions.
Environmental Justice Grantee Profiles
Learn about the grantees of the Advancing Environmental Justice through Technical Assistance Mini-Grants Program.
Communications Strategies for Social Justice (February 2023)
Download English version (PDF)
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Background on environmental health inequities
Communities affected by environmental injustices are most often composed of marginalized racial/ethnic, low-wealth, rural, immigrant/refugee, indigenous and other populations that live in areas disproportionately burdened by environmental hazards, unhealthy land uses, psychosocial stressors, historical traumas and systemic racism, all of which drive environmental health disparities.
This disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color is also known as environmental racism, which stems from intentional institutional policies or decisions that target communities of color for undesirable land uses, such as the siting of polluting industries that release toxic and hazardous waste.
What is environmental justice?
The environmental justice movement works to combat environmental racism and other oppressive systems, as it was born from decades of community mobilization, the civil rights movement and environmentalism.
The EPA defines environmental justice as “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.”
In combatting environmental injustices, we are working towards basic human rights and the safety and well-being of communities, as well as sustainable health equity. This work cannot be achieved without centering, uplifting and meaningfully engaging those who experience such injustices.
“For far too long, people of color, Native Americans and low-income communities have suffered disproportionately from the devastating consequences of pollution, climate change and other environmental health harms. Today, the nation is finally taking substantial steps to right these wrongs and eliminate health disparities. Join us in advancing this era of transformative change for environmental justice and civil rights.” – Charles Lee, senior policy advisor, Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights, USEPA
Why is environmental justice important to public health?
Environmental justice is a public health and human rights issue. Marginalized communities are disproportionately at risk of exposure to lead, air pollution, hazardous waste and extreme heat. Environmental exposures have been linked to various damaging health issues, including cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases and developmental disabilities.
The threat of climate change further exacerbates these environmental health risks. For example, climate change worsens heat waves, which have more severe impacts on certain populations including farmworkers.
To fight environmental injustice and move towards health equity, we need to consider environmental health burdens, systemic racism and other social factors and pre-existing health conditions together as cumulative health impacts, to address environmental justice as a structural public health issue.
See more of APHA's environmental justice work below!
Questions? Please reach out to Kate Robb, deputy director of APHA's Center for Public Health Policy.
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