Environmental Justice and Healthy Homes
What Does Environmental Justice Mean?
Michelle feels like the home she shares with her family is falling apart. Talking about her home environment, she says, “It’s not easy to live here. Our home has too much dust. The paint is chipping off the walls, and we live near a chemical plant. More often than not we have to deal with an awful smell inside our home. The smell comes from the plant. Sometimes, it’s hard to breathe, especially for my 5 year-old, who has developed a severe case of asthma. We never know when we might have to leave our home, it can be really scary. Whatever they make over at the plant also leaves dust piles on our cars. The noise from the plant’s exhaust ports and trains sometimes keeps us awake all night. We don’t get enough sleep, and the kids don’t have a lot of room to play outside. We don’t have any sidewalks. Being this close to the street is dangerous. We can’t get good food around here. We only have corner stores that don’t sell vegetables or fruits. But we don’t have a choice; this is all we can afford.”
“When we visit the other side of town, they have a lot more access to grocery stores with fresh foods. Their higher-income neighborhood seems to have a healthy environment. Well, we might not have a lot of money, but we deserve to live in a healthy environment too.”
What is Environmental Justice?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (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.”
The environment is everything around you. It includes your home and the place where you work. The lake where you might swim or fish, the places where your food is grown or prepared, and even the places your drinking water travels through on its way to your home.
The opportunity to live a healthy life often depends on living in a healthy environment. Everyone’s environment should be free of unhealthy materials or hazards that can cause illness or even death. Read more about the definition of Environmental Justice »