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In recent years, Americans have become increasingly concerned about our environment. With climate change threatening the planet, dirty air triggering asthma, and industrial pollutants causing cancer, the nation is more motivated than ever before to take a hard look at the problems we face and seek new approaches that can better secure the future of the planet and the health of our communities. One of the first steps in that process is gathering the information that can help frame the challenge and steer us to positive solutions. This report, one of the first efforts based on a new database on industrially-generated toxic air, attempts to do just that. Along the way, we examine not only the level of pollution but also who is being polluted. As with so many other environmental hazards, it turns out that the problems are disproportionately borne by low-income communities of color. One unique aspect of this work is that we track the pollution not just to the smokestacks but to the companies that own them. Many firms are aware of their impacts on communities and the environment, and many have adopted strategies for becoming better corporate citizens. This report aims to contribute to these efforts by presenting a new measure of performance: whether companies are having a particularly high and disparate impact on disadvantaged communities.
Health Equity and Social Justice Toolkit