Adding to my previous post here as I thought more about the intersections of data collection, environmental justice and legislation. Data is just one element of making persuasive cases to advance causes, but the data and results required to advance particular legislation for regulations that protect human and health and the environment I think also need to be re-evaluated. I think it’s important to assess where we need stronger tools to both gather and analyze datasets and understand sources of pollution and environmental impacts. For example, the datasets utilized in the Mikati article are problematic in a few ways. To highlight one aspect, the PM2.5 data from the EPA is largely insufficient to give good representation about small-scale variations like Mikati et al. seek to analyze (0.5-5 miles, and a 2.5-mile radius for their primary analysis). A 2.5-mile radius in Baltimore could encompass several neighborhoods with starkly different income levels and demographics. EPA particulate matter monitoring is sparse and not reliable. If we want to get good data on spatial and temporal PM presence, and be able to account for important factors such as wind directions that will strongly influence which areas are most impacted from an industrial source, we need to expand and improve upon the tools we use to collect data. Satellites, for example, can offer great potential benefits to supplement PM monitoring from the EPA. Here is an article that discusses some of the pitfalls in EPA monitoring and how use of satellite data can help:
Having better data that is large in scope and depth, coupled with individual personal stories, would certainly strengthen the case for legislation for changes that can positively impact people’s livelihoods.
Towards this end of legislative change, I would draw on some of our other readings discussing slow violence and specifically the presence of toxic chemicals in residential environments. Another point to make is that it is far too difficult to ban and regulate chemical compounds and substances in the United States. What does it take to prove a chemical causes harm to human health and should be regulated or outright banned?-- Years and years, and millions to billions in research dollars and lobbying. Much to do with capitalism, as we’ve discussed, and also to do with pervasive power held by private corporations and industries. As a society, we are also inundated with marketing about how products and chemicals will make our lives better, more convenient, happier. As a result, we’re a chemicalized culture. Tens of thousands of chemicals are on the market in the U.S. Despite research findings from the fields of public health to biochemistry, genetics to oncology that may all work towards establishing toxic effects and health hazards for various compounds, the U.S. has banned less than 20 chemicals. Compare this to the EU which has banned well over 1,000. It is far too difficult to modify the laws and regulations surrounding chemical production, consumption, use and disposal in our country. I see this as cornerstone to advancing the environmental justice. Our legislators need to be able to accept data from cutting edge tools, technology, and research methods that can use high throughput toxicity screening based on in vitro , in chemico and in silico assays to supplant or supplement what is otherwise required-- including years of expensive extensive animal studies and long-term assessments for chronic low-level exposures. Industries are not held accountable for their footprint in many respects, or it is too easy to get exceptions and workarounds. Production and consumption are valued over human health, with the fallacy that reducing the amount of toxic substances in our environment would come at a cost to the economic strength of the country. It will obviously take efforts on many fronts --and from a variety of fronts, perspectives and levels-- to advance environmental justice. But I think these collective efforts, along with integrating the tools and technology at our disposal to advance legislation, will help us get there.