Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, my family and I smelled the stench of tanneries every day. Our view was the smokestacks and facilities of the Route 9 Industrial Corridor—and it wasn’t until later that I realized children in whiter, more affluent neighborhoods were more likely to see trees and parks instead. As I grew older, I came to realize that air pollution, Brownfields, and chemical accidents weren’t something that every family deals with. In fact, neighborhoods just across the river had tree-lined streets and rolling parks, instead of smokestacks and Brownfields. This is “environmental injustice”. Many families, especially in communities of color and poor areas, face industrial pollution and its health impacts every day—while whiter and wealthier communities breathe cleaner air and live in a less toxic environment.
Environmental injustice is a daily fact of life for millions of Americans. Because communities of color and the poor don’t have as much political power, they can’t refuse chemical plants, industrial pollution, and the health problems it contributes to. Multinational companies target our communities to carry the burden of their toxic waste—while whiter and more affluent communities benefit from a greater share of their profits. This is wrong, and it’s time for change.
That’s why we host the Environmental Justice Health Alliance with Coming Clean: to unite environmental justice communities living 'fenceline' to polluting industries across the nation, find synergy in our stories, struggles, and successes, and create a national movement to address the injustice of who suffers and who benefits from chemical pollution.
Right now, we're working with environmental justice communities across the nation and helping them protect their health and fight the chemical pollution threatening their lives. We're working with Native communities in Alaska, who are being poisoned by persistent toxic chemicals in the food chain, and we're working with urban communities in Delaware, who face an onslaught of air pollution from chemical manufacturing and highways built in their backyards—and dozens of communities in-between.
We are united by the belief that every child, no matter the color of their skin or the wealth of their family, deserves an environment free of toxic chemicals that limit their health and potential. We believe that no community would allow pollution that could harm their children’s health if every community suffered this pollution equally. At the Environmental Justice Health Alliance and Coming Clean, we’re working every day to reduce the harms caused by toxic chemicals, starting with those who are harmed first and worst.
--Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance (EJHA)
EJHA Co-Coordinator, Michele Roberts, speaking at a press conference with US Senator Cory Booker