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Follow our 20th Anniversary Video Series!

2012 August 2

EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice launched our 20th Anniversary Video Series, featuring government officials, non-profit leaders, academics and students who share inspiring and educational stories about the lessons they have learned while working on environmental justice. Click here to view the full list of blog posts and videos in our series!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Reducing Pollution For All American Families

2013 February 14

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Originally posted on the White House Blog

By Administrator Lisa P. Jackson

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.

Shortly after I was sworn in, I asked EPA employees to make environmental justice part of every decision we make. I called on the whole Agency to think creatively and work hard to make certain that our efforts reach all communities. Plan EJ 2014 – the environmental justice strategy we unveiled more than two years ago– is the tool we created for answering that call. It is aimed at ensuring that environmental justice is integrated into all of EPA’s day-to-day responsibilities – everything from permitting, compliance and enforcement, to community-based programs and the work we do with other federal agencies.

As I prepare to leave EPA, one of my last acts as administrator is issuing the Plan EJ 2014 Progress Report. The report provides ample evidence of how far we have come in making environmental justice an integral and permanent part of EPA’s day-to-day business. It also details how we have mobilized the entire federal government to incorporate environmental justice into the work each agency conducts.

For the first time in our 42 year history, we have laid the groundwork for EPA to fully implement its environmental justice mission of ensuring environmental protection for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity or income level. I am proud of the work we have started and the progress we have made, and I am confident that it will continue long after I depart.

About the author: Lisa Jackson is the outgoing Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

You Can Help Make Better Government Policies

2013 February 1

By Victoria Robinson

As the designated federal officer for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), I’m happy to announce that EPA is inviting nominations to be considered for appointment to the NEJAC, a federal advisory committee.

Congress passed the Federal Advisory Committee Act in recognition of the fact that federal agencies benefit significantly when they receive advice from voices outside of the government. EPA established the NEJAC in 1993 to provide independent and timely advice and recommendations to EPA about integrating environmental justice into the agency’s work. Through meeting with the public and consolidating advice from members who represent a broad range of viewpoints, the NEJAC provides recommendations that incorporate community and other stakeholder perspectives and helps the government do a better job of considering environmental justice in the agency’s everyday activities.

While each member may bring a different perspective to committee meetings, the one thing all NEJAC members share is a passion for environmental justice.  They each want to make a difference in their communities and in other communities across the country. Through their work on the NEJAC these individuals have been instrumental in formulating nearly 700 recommendations to EPA about a wide variety of major public policy issues. For instance, NEJAC recommendations have influenced a variety of EPA’s programs and policies, including the Brownfields program, permitting processes,  consultation with tribes and interactions with indigenous communities, and monitoring of air toxics around our nation’s schools. That is why I am always excited to welcome new leaders onto the NEJAC, because I know that they will bring the energy and ideas necessary to keep building upon these important efforts.

The NEJAC is made up of approximately 26 members who are appointed from a broad spectrum of stakeholders representing community-based groups, business and industry, academic and educational institutions, state and local governments, indigenous organizations and federally-recognized tribal governments, and non-governmental and environmental groups. Within each of these sectors, members that can offer technical perspectives on subjects such as  public health, climate change adaptation, environmental financing, equitable development, and community sustainability, are sought that reflect the issues and subjects currently being evaluated by the NEJAC.

You can submit your application for membership to the NEJAC by downloading this electronic form and following the instructions to submit your application. In order to fill the anticipated vacancies by May 2012, nominations should be received by February 20, 2012. For additional details regarding the nomination process and to learn more about the NEJAC, please visit justice/NEJAC/index.html, or call the EPA Office of Environmental Justice at (202) 564-2515.

Consider the NEJAC – it might be a perfect fit.

About the author: Victoria Robinson is the Designated Federal Officer (DFO) for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), a federal advisory committee. Since 2003, she has been responsible for the day-to-day management of the NEJAC, managing the committee in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Environmental Justice is About Government Engaging with Communities on a Personal Level

2013 January 18

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By Edith Pestana

Edith Meeting with Community Members in Bridgeport, CT

I learned early on in my career in public service the importance of sitting down with communities to truly understand the environmental burdens they sometimes face.  It is extremely valuable for those of us who serve in government, like I do for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), to spend time with folks in their neighborhoods in order to hear and witness firsthand the disparities people sometimes experience in areas overburdened by pollution. You can’t be effective in government if you do what I call “arm chair environmental protection” which literally means that you never leave your office to see firsthand what communities experience.  You also deprive yourself of creating meaningful and rewarding relationships that improve services and benefit the neighborhood community members.

My DEEP colleagues and I have spent a great deal of time sitting with people in their homes, in their places of worship, and in their surrounding environments.  And, from these experiences, we have learned that meaningful communication is crucial to being effective, resolving issues in communities and doing good environmental and public health work.

I remember one particular case when agency management and staff met with people in their homes and learned that residents in their neighborhood couldn’t open the windows in their homes, have a backyard barbecue or hold a block watch meeting because of the terrible odors emanating from a nearby landfill. The visit led to state enforcement action and more importantly, the beginning of an understanding that affected policies and programs and changed the culture of the agency. Throughout the years, this cultural change in the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has enabled us to have better communication with the public and a better understanding of and empathy for the issues faced in communities. We have also been able to successfully build long-standing relationships with environmental justice leaders in Connecticut.

In another case, when we heard about illegal dumping that was happening in the inner cities of Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, Conn., we visited the communities and saw firsthand how the trash was devastating these neighborhoods. It invigorated us to partner with the residents and other stakeholders to clean up the trash. This not only led to redevelopment and reinvestment, but the gains from these relationships included the early resolution of potential  issues before they become problems and a quicker response in the areas of enforcement, remediation, and permitting in these communities.

All communities have the right to be heard by their government representatives and to participate in the government process in ways that influence positive changes in the neighborhood and improve their quality of life. The best way for officials to ensure that local communities are being heard is to go into the communities and listen!

Edith Pestana, is the Administrator of the Environmental Justice Program for the State of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  Since 1994, she has been responsible for the management of the state environmental justice program including design, policy and regulatory development and implementation. She serves on numerous boards and commissions’ including the State of Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and is a member of the USEPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Come learn about environmental justice and equitable development at New Partners for Smart Growth!

2013 January 11

By Megan McConville

Last time I visited Kansas City, Missouri, my host took me to the Green Impact Zone, a 150 square block area that has experienced severe economic decline. During our visit we also met with community leaders, local and regional policymakers, and federal partners who are working collaboratively to transform the area.  We saw the challenges facing the neighborhood—the vacant structures, run-down housing, and dilapidated streets—but we also saw improvements to the Troost Avenue Bridge that accommodate pedestrians and buses, heard about home weatherization projects, and learned about the Neighborhood Leadership Committee, the Community Leadership training program, and other community engagement efforts.

Since then, Green Impact Zone leaders have begun redevelopment projects that will turn vacant buildings into affordable housing, small businesses, and community facilities; train unemployed residents to find jobs; improv sidewalks throughout the neighborhood; and much more.

Troost Bridge After Improvements

The Green Impact Zone is just one of many innovative efforts I’ll learn about when I return to Kansas City February 6-9, 2013 for the 12th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference. Last year’s conference had over 1,500 attendees, including environmental justice leaders from across the United States. The premiere smart growth conference in the U.S., New Partners explores all aspects of the field, from community revitalization, affordable housing, and small town livability to green building, health, and climate change adaptation.

The afternoon of February 6, I’ll attend a workshop titled Sustainable Neighborhoods, Thriving Residents: Strategies for Building Equitable Communities, which will explore how low-income, minority, tribal, and overburdened communities are integrating land use and economic development strategies to revitalize their neighborhoods and build residents’ skills and wealth.  Leaders from community organizations, governments, and businesses will share how they are knitting together planning, infrastructure investment, development policies, workforce training, business assistance, and other approaches to improve the physical environment, create jobs, avoid displacement, and encourage inclusive economic growth.

As the conference continues, the agenda is packed with environmental justice and equitable development-focused events (PDF), such as sessions on green zones, cleaning up freight projects, fair housing, and engaging industrial neighbors in smart growth projects.  And, there are networking opportunities for people interested in regional equity and public health, and tours of diverse Kansas City neighborhoods.

The registration deadline for the conference is coming up on January 18, so make sure to sign up before it’s too late.  I’ll be there and I hope to see you there too!

About the author: Megan McConville is a Policy & Planning Fellow in EPA’s Office of Sustainable Communities. She explores how overburdened communities can combine smart growth and environmental justice strategies to improve their neighborhoods, health, and quality of life.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Are you getting the basic amenities your taxes paid for?

2012 December 7

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By Omega Wilson

Many African American communities, like the Mebane, North Carolina community where I grew up, and tribal areas, lack access to basic public health amenities.  The denial of or lack of access to “up-to-code” infrastructure (safe drinking water, sewer collection, paved streets, sidewalks, and storm-water management) contributes to disparities in health. Long-term exposure to deficient infrastructure often leads to disproportionately adverse health effects in low-income and minority communities than are evident in predominantly higher-income communities.

Infrastructure code standards are paid for by taxpayers, regulated by federal agencies (under the Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act etc.), and maintained by state and local governments. However, in low-income and minority communities, homeowners may not get a return on their property, income, and sale taxes in the form of “basic amenities” that other higher income areas take for granted.

Removal of 20,000 Gallon Underground Petroleum Storage Tanks

In 1994, when the North Carolina Department of Transportation revealed plans for the construction of 27-mile highway through two African American communities in Mebane, our residents became aware that federal laws prohibited the use of federal money to destroy houses, churches, and cemeteries without fair compensation. Homeowners already had been denied basic amenities for decades and leaking underground storage tanks, that threatened our well water and ground water, had yet to be cleaned up.

As a result, we organized the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) to challenge the planned 8-lane interstate corridor. Residents learned from U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials that every taxpaying community is entitled to basic amenities guaranteed by the government. WERA translated this “common knowledge” into a list of public health disparities and drafted administrative complaints at DOJ under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and referenced the environmental justice Executive Order 12898 of 1994. DOJ asked six branches of the federal government to investigate the oversight of civil rights and public health guidelines during the  highway planning process that had been going on for 16 years, without opportunities for public input.

As a result, there has been a moratorium on construction of the highway since 1999, in order to ensure that actions to mitigate the potential impacts of the construction are put in place. Additionally, more than 100 African American homeowners have had sewer lines installed for the first time, even though homes have been within two-to-three blocks from the municipal sewer treatment plant since it was constructed in 1921. Property owners were required to dig up underground storage tanks and dispose of them. And, federal matching block grants were distributed to rehabilitate houses and repair sidewalks and streets.

My experience working to improve local health and environmental conditions by ensuring that communities have access to infrastructure that reduces health disparities has taught me that we should each ask ourselves: is my community getting the basic amenities our taxed paid for?

About the author: Omega R. Wilson is President of the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) of Mebane, N.C. Founding board chairman in 1994 when WERA incorporated as 501-( c)(3) non-profit community development corporation (CDC). He led board and staff through capacity building as a community-based environmental protection (CBEP) organization under U.S. EPA guidelines. Wilson is a former member of the U.S. EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC), and Advisory Committee for the Environmental Leadership Program – Southeast Regional Network, and he is also a member of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. Wilson’s educational background includes media and communications, community organizing, and environmental justice leadership.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Building a Bridge between Environment and Equity

2012 November 29

By Lydia Hooper

Even those of us familiar with environmental justice often cannot see this issue in our own communities without taking an in-depth look. The more I have learned about Westerly Creek in the Denver Metro Area, the more I have come to understand how the quality of this waterway is not just about public and environmental health, it’s about fairness. I have also been delightfully surprised to find that it is young people who are leading the way to change.

Westerly Creek

Most of the Westerly Creek disappears underground but it is also much nearer to homes, both factors which increase the risk of flooding damage in this neighborhood during Denver’s annual flash flood season. Moreover, the people most affected by such floods are the least protected. Flash floods often may have a dangerous wall of roaring water carrying rocks, mud and other debris that can damage property and possibly endanger lives. The area has become a resting place for refugees and immigrants, and due to numerous language and cultural barriers as well as preoccupation with the day-to-day concerns of low-income living, the majority of local residents remain unaware of these flooding dangers.

So far there have been at least three plans drawn up for a greenway along the creek, but since such a major re-engineering project would cost about $1 million per block, it has been very difficult to secure funding. But the good news is that there are some who are working to fight this injustice right now – like my colleague Donny Roush at Earth Force, an organization that empowers youth to become leaders in their communities. Roush hopes to cultivate community-based solutions through facilitation of the Earth Force Process, six-steps that use scientific inquiry, service-learning and civic action tools to engage students in taking action on environmental issues.

This past summer Roush explored Westerly Creek’s issues with a group of students from the neighborhood’s Fletcher Middle School. Earth Force helped students to conduct experiments to locate nearly 100 homes that are in areas most vulnerable to flooding. The students then decided to make and distribute brochures to educate their neighbors about local flooding dangers. “I do think we made a difference,” ninth-grader Cynthia Casillas told the Denver Post. “I think we spread awareness.”

These students will continue to work with their schools and Earth Force, and have expressed interest in not only sharing their research with residents, but with the local government as well. And as the City of Denver continues to hold meetings with the public to find ways to address the dangers from the flooding season, I won’t be surprised if community youth are the first ones to take a seat.

About the author: Lydia Hooper is the “Keep It Clean” Communications Liaison for Denver Public WorksWastewater Management-Water Quality Division and Earth Force, a non-profit that focuses on community partnership and facilitation of environmental service-learning projects for youth nationwide.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

My Journey as a Student in Understanding and Assessing the Impacts of Pesticides

2012 November 15

By Sonam Gill

Growing up I spent the occasional weekend with my parents and brothers on Interstate 99 driving down from the Bay Area to Selma and Visalia, Calif. to visit family.  While bickering with my older brothers in the backseat during what seemed like a never-ending car ride, all I could see to the left, right, and up ahead were agricultural fields.  But, I had not realized the extent of pesticide use across the San Joaquin Valley until I began my internship with the Environmental Justice Program at EPA’s Regional Office in San Francisco.

Throughout the Valley, which is home to nearly 700,000 residents, many communities have raised concerns about issues related to pesticide use. Pesticides are linked to a range of health affects, from no adverse health affects at all, to minor irritations of the skin and eyes, all the way up to long term effects from repeated exposure. To help better understand the intersection between pesticide use and environmental justice, I was tasked with  helping to identify vulnerable communities in the San Joaquin Valley, as measured by social vulnerability, environmental impacts, and health impacts, specifically focusing on pesticides.

San Joaquin Valley

My challenge was to use existing data to create a surrogate for determining potential exposure. I spent most of my time during the internship working collaboratively with our Pesticide Office to do just that. We refined pesticide use data for the Valley by creating a ranking approach for pesticides based on toxicity and mapped areas of high use in order to help the agency make better informed decisions regarding EPA programs and pesticide regulation.

My experience working on this project at EPA has not only enhanced my knowledge about pesticides and their use in California, but it has also provided me with an opportunity to work on a issue that I feel personally connected to because members of my immediate family live in areas of the San Joaquin Valley where pesticide use rates are some of the highest. Through our efforts on this project, incorporating community perspectives and defensible interpretations of existing data, I was able to gain valuable experience working to help provide information that is critical to informing decision-making about pesticides.

About the author: Sonam Gill joined EPA’s San Francisco Office in June 2011 as a STEP Intern, and for Fall 2011 as an Environmental Justice Eco Ambassador. She double majored at the University of California Santa Barbara in Black Studies (BA) and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (BS), and this academic year she is wrapping up a dual Master’s program (MS Environmental Management and MBA) at the University of San Francisco.  She is currently writing her Master’s thesis on the cost-effectiveness of alternatives to highly applied agricultural fumigant pesticides.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

After the Storm

2012 November 2

By Lina Younes

As millions of residents along the mid-Atlantic and northeastern regions of the United States are getting their lives back in order after Sandy’s vicious rampage, many are still dealing with the storm’s aftermath: severe flooding.

One of the many problems with flood water is that it may contain high levels of raw sewage and other contaminants that are hazardous to both your health and the environment. Above all, limit your contact with flood water!

If you were fortunate in not having flood water in your area, but still have water problems inside your home, remove and clean any water damaged items in order to avoid mold buildup. Controlling moisture is key to controlling mold in indoor environments. Exposure to mold has potential health effects that include allergic reactions, asthma attacks and other respiratory complaints. So address any water damage in your home quickly to protect your health and your family.

Are you concerned about the water quality in your area? Have you been informed by local authorities on the need to boil your water? Here you will find some valuable information onemergency disinfection of drinking water.

While utilities and local authorities are working around the clock to make sure that power is restored as quickly as possible, there are still residents without electricity due to Sandy’s wrath. Above all, do not use generators in enclosed areas inside the home or even in the garage. Why may you ask? Because generator exhaust is extremely toxic and may be lethal. Generator exhaust contains deadly carbon monoxide.  Avoid using a generator or other combustion appliances inside the home.

Please be mindful that children and the elderly need special attention during these natural disasters. I know from my own personal experience listening to my parents mention that they simply “don’t feel thirsty.” Losing the sense of thirst with age puts the elderly at a greater risk of dehydration. Make sure they drink enough water even when they say they don’t feel like it.

Simple tips to help us recover from the storm. Hope they are helpful. Do you have any tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Do you Know if your Waterway is Polluted?

2012 October 25

Doug Norton

Pollution in the Potomac River

“How’s My Waterway?” Can you answer this question about your favorite vacation lake, or the river where you walk with your dog?  Are streams in your community polluted, and what’s being done about it if they are?

Most people don’t know – and are surprised to learn – that the answers have been publicly available for years.  But publicly available doesn’t always mean easily accessible and understandable.

For decades, the Clean Water Act has required tracking of water pollution problems and restoration progress across the nation. EPA public databases include detailed information about the condition of local streams and lakes, pollutants, where they come from, and progress on fixing the problems.

As an Office of Water scientist, I regularly use these databases in national and state studies of water pollution trends and restoration strategies. But even I had trouble answering the simple question: “How’s My Waterway?”  These data systems weren’t designed to provide a quick look at local waters or to provide a simple explanation of what the data really mean. Chances are most people would be baffled by EPA’s complex databases and scientific information.  They might say, “But all I really want to know is:  How’s MY waterway?  And please tell me in words I can understand.”

Map View of How's My Waterway

My project team created an exciting solution to this dilemma as part of EPA’s Water Data Project, which makes important water information more widely known and available to the general public.  We developed How’s My Waterway as a simpler pathway through the same EPA database.  You can instantly get localized information about waterways in map and list format by simply entering a zip code or place name.  Anyone can check on local waters anywhere in the nation in seconds—even at the water’s edge, for those using smart phones.

Users can pan across the color-coded map that shows how common are the polluted, unpolluted, and unassessed waters.  Waterway-specific details include the local pollutants and progress on clean-up plans.  Plain-language descriptions about each pollutant explain where it comes from, whether it harms the environment and human health, and what people can do to help.  Related links go to the technical database if needed or to other popular sites about beaches, drinking water, fish advisories and other water topics.

How’s My Waterway may especially help those communities where there are less resources to access and decipher complicated information from EPA’s data systems.  Learning about locally polluted areas may help people avoid illnesses from swimming or eating contaminated fish, and reading the plain language descriptions can help anyone understand risks and causes.  With better information, people are safer and communities are more able to take action.

What’s the health of your waterway?  Now you can find out.

About the author: Doug Norton is a watershed scientist with EPA’s Office of Water who studies national pollution patterns, helps states restore polluted waters, and designs tools to help improve public understanding of water pollution issues.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Tox Town: A Great Tool for Learning About Chemicals in our Environment

2012 October 12

By Judy Kramer and Andrew Plumer

Have you ever wondered which chemicals are in your community and what impacts they may have on your health? Chemicals are routinely used to support all parts of American life and are integral in our agricultural, commercial, and industrial processes. Although our way of life depends on the use of many chemicals, their potential environmental impact cannot be ignored. Understanding the relationships between these substances and our environment is critical to promoting safe practices and protecting public health.

Tox Town Southwest Scene

We at the National Library of Medicine (NLM) have an interesting interactive website that introduces middle school, high school, and college students, as well as educators and the general public, to toxic chemicals in their everyday environment. Tox Town uses graphics, sounds, and animation to show the connections between chemicals, the environment, and the public’s health. There are six distinct neighborhoods in Tox Town: city, town, farm, port, US border regions, and a new US Southwest scene. Each neighborhood is toured by selecting “Location” or “Chemical” links.

Tox Town presents the facts on everyday locations where toxic chemicals and substances might be found with non-technical descriptions of the chemicals. There is information about how the environment can affect human health. We also provide links to chemical and environmental health resources from trusted sources. Like all of our neighborhoods, our new Southwest scene demonstrates the uniqueness and some similarities of the environmental health issues we all face today.

In collaboration with Diné College, a tribal college for the Arizona and New Mexico Navajo Nation, the Southwest has very specific environmental hazards like abandoned mines, uranium tailings, and dust storms. With Tox Town, we at the NLM seek to inform the public about the environmental health concerns in their “own backyard” but also with areas with which they may not be familiar.

The US Southwest scene can be used as an educational tool not only for students and the general public living in the Southwest, but also for those of us living in other parts of the country that are unaware of the unique environmental health concerns for those living in this region. Tox Town can present environmental issues in an easy to understand manner that makes explaining the concept of environmental justice to the general public interesting and engaging.  Tox Town also offers some resources in Spanish, and has a text version. We also have resources especially for teachers.  Check out this great new resource and let us know what you think of the new Southwest scene and Tox Town in general.

About the authors: Judy Kramer is a Public Health Specialist, and a contractor for ICF International, working with the National Library of Medicine on Specialized Information Services. Judy oversaw the development of the Tox Town US Southwest scene and is a member of the K-12 team that produces educational resources for educators. Andrew Plumer is an Outreach Librarian for the National Library of Medicine, and also works on Specialized Information Services. Andrew is part of the K-12 team that produces educational resources for educators.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.