Thursday, 20 February 2014

Black History: The "Hidden" Front Lines of Civil Rights - People of Color Disproportionately Impacted by Toxic Chemicals

While the American public is reminiscing about the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's for Black History month, more attention is being given to the modern day front lines for human rights: toxic chemical contamination of people of color.

"People of color are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals," explains Michele Roberts, with Environmental Justice and Health Alliance. "We have the highest contamination and illnesses linked to chemical exposure. While it is important to celebrate and honor Black History Month, it is equally important to look at the lives of African American communities today. Environmental laws are not being enforced in our communities and we are not being protected by our governments. We need regulation, standards and guidance to protect our communities now and for future generations." 

After a West, Texas explosion that killed 15 people, President Obama issued Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Safety and Security. "Listening Sessions" are being held across the country. Those living near and working in petrochemical plants have been attending and speaking out. Today's session is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

"When corporations decide where to build chemical plants, landfills, or water treatment plants where chemicals leach, they most often choose low income communities of color," remarks Richard Moore, a long time civil rights and environmental justice leader, also with the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance. He went on to say, "Black History month this year is also the 20th Anniversary of Executive Order 12898, to address Environmental Justice in 'Minority' and Low Income Populations, issued by President Clinton. We must claim our civil rights by demanding that President Clinton's Executive Order and President Obama's Executive Order are implemented with justice for our communities."
Explosions and Contaminations are occurring regularly, including:
Dorothy Felix, with  Mossville Environmental Action Now (MEAN), wants Mossville, LA  residents moved out of harms' way. "A fire occurred at the Axiall vinyl chloride plant in nearby Lake Charles. We here in Louisiana are harmed the most by the chemical manufacturing industry, and we are paying the price with our lives for the willful negligence of the chemical industry."

"Toxic chemicals  benzene, chloride and others linked to cancer and respiratory injury contaminate communities during train derailments, truck crashes, plant explosions and other incidents," says Dr. Wilma Subra, a toxicologist in Louisiana. "Those suffering from asthma and other illnesses - especially children and the elderly -  suffer even more in a chemical disaster."

"Environmental justice is a civil rights issue affecting all communities of color who are being hurt by a lack of government oversight and corporate accountability. Our governments must come forward now to protect communities and workers from toxic chemical disasters. The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Labor (OSHA), and the U.S. EPA, as well as other federal and state agencies, need to take responsibility to protect communities and workers from chemical disasters," said Mr. Moore.

SOURCE Environmental Justice and Health Alliance

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