When I first became Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I made a list of my priorities for the Agency. Working for environmental justice was at the top of that list. Ensuring equal environmental protections for all Americans is the unfinished business of the environmental movement.
It’s a simple idea – that all Americans are entitled to clean air to breathe, safe water to drink and a healthy community to raise their families – but often, it is America’s low-income and minority communities that bear the brunt of our country’s pollution.
As a result, these communities are also hit harder by the many illnesses pollution is linked to – conditions like asthma, heart disease, cancer and strokes. Studies show that minority groups face a greater risk of having asthma, and once they have it, they are at a greater risk of needing emergency treatment. African-American children are hospitalized for asthma at twice the rate of white children, and asthma-related deaths among African-American children take place at a rate of four times that of non-Hispanic white children. Hispanic children — especially of Puerto Rican descent — also face higher rates of asthma.
Dirty air, polluted water and contaminated lands not only put families at higher risks of serious and potentially costly diseases – they also discourage new developments and new jobs. Poison in the ground often means poison in the economy. Limiting the economic possibilities of low-income and minority communities only makes it harder to break the cycle of poverty.
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