Environmental Health and Justice
The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines Environmental Health as “The branch of public health that focuses on the relationships between people & their environment; promotes human health and well-being and fosters healthy and safe communities” (APHA).
The US Environmental Protection Agency 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.”
According to Dr. Robert Bullard, Father of the Environmental Justice Movement, “Environmental justice embraces the principle that all people and communities have a right to equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations.”
Drafted by delegates of the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, held in Washington, DC on October 24-27, 1991. This summit was a pivotal step in formalizing the modern environmental justice movement and these principles established the framework for advocacy.
This tool enables the mapping of location-specific environmental and demographic data.
The EJI maps data on the cumulative impacts of environmental hazards. It looks at health effects over time based on the environmental burden, social and health vulnerabilities in a community. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) describes the tool as the “first national, place-based tool designed to measure the cumulative impacts of environmental burden through the lens of human health and health equity.”
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Public Environmental Health Tracker
This tool maps local data on environment, hazards, health topics and health effects. Information support is provided to help users make sense of the data.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
This site discusses how community-engaged research and citizen science are being used to address environmental issues.
Describes programs NIEHS has in place to address environmental health disparities.
This is a monthly journal of environmental health research and news supported by NIEHS.
This is a database of curated, peer-reviewed research on the topic.
This list shares resources mentioned in the NNLM Webinar, Free Information Resources from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recorded on November 15, 2022.
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
This site provides information on CDC’s program and provides access to the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
This site provides an overview of several key topics of concern for the environment. It also includes location-specific topic information.
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
This site provides information about the work HHS is doing through the Office of Climate Change & Health Equity and the Office of Environmental Justice.
American Public Health Association (APHA)
APHA's National Environmental Health Partnership Council, with support from CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, hosts the Advancing Environmental Justice through Technical Assistance Mini-Grants Program. This site features resources resulting from the project.
World Health Organization (WHO): Environmental Health
Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD): Environment Focuses on country-specific policies around environmental health.
Bullard, R. D. (2000). Dumping in Dixie: Race, class and environmental quality (3rd ed.). Westview Press.
Originally published in 1990, this book highlights the challenges of five Black communities in the fight for health equity and justice.
Bullard R. D. Mohai P. Saha R. Wright B. & United Church of Christ. (2007). Toxic wastes and race at twenty: a report prepared for the united church of christ justice & witness ministries. United Church of Christ.
Toxic Waste and Race, first released in 1987, was study done by the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. The report confirmed that racial demographics of communities played a significant role in the location of toxic waste dumps. Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty, released in 2007, examines the progress over twenty years.
Coolsaet, B. (2021). Environmental justice: key issues. Routledge.
This text is a solid introduction to the interdisciplinary nature of environmental justice and includes perspectives on gender, colonization, race, intersectionality as well as energy, food, urbanization and labor.
Gilio-Whitaker D. (2019). As long as grass grows: the indigenous fight for environmental justice from colonization to standing rock. Beacon Press. This book covers the American Indian history of the environmental justice movement.
Hanna-Attisha M. (2019). What the eyes don't see: a story of crisis resistance and hope in an American city (One World trade paperback). One World.
Chronicles one pediatrician’s discovery of Flint, Michigan children’s exposure to lead in the city’s water supply and her fight for justice and accountability. Through her story, she takes a critical look at systemic causes of environmental health inequities. Supplemental Resource: Teacher's Guide for Student Discussion (from One Maryland One Book, Maryland Humanities)
Morrone M. (2020). Ailing in place environmental inequities and health disparities in Appalachia. Ohio University Press.
This book explores the relationship between health outcomes and the environmental conditions that create them.
Taylor D. E. (2014). Toxic communities: environmental racism industrial pollution and residential mobility. New York University Press.
Environmental sociologist Dr. Dorceta Taylor’s book is an examination of environmental racism and its impact on communities. Supplemental Material: Instructor’s Guide (from NYU Press) (PDF)
Podcasts, Webinars & Free Classes
Ahearn, A. (Host). (2021 November 23). Environmental Justice: The Past, Present and Future of the Movement. [Audio podcast episode]. In Environmental Health Chat. NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Education (PEPH).
This podcast is an interview with Robert Bullard about the modern environmental justice movement.
American Public Health Association. (Producer). 2022. Amplify Your Story: Environmental Justice Storytelling and Sharing [Video].
This webinar demonstrates methods and strategies for sharing your community’s experiences around environmental issues.
Barnett, N. & Wright, A. 2022. Environmental Health and Justice: a brief primer. NNLM.
Downton, K. & Mayo, A. 2021. Citizen Science: Gearing Up for Discovery [MOOC]. EdX.
NNLM. (Producer). 2022. Your Environment. Your Health. Free Resources from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). [Video].
NNLM. (Producer). 2023. Finding Environmental Health Information on PubMed. [Video].
NNLM. (Producer). 2022. Libraries as Hubs for Citizen Science: Partnering with Academia to Improve the Health of Communities. [Video].
There are several organizations doing work with communities around environmental health and justice. Here is a select list:
Founded by Dr. Beverly Wright in 1992 in collaboration with local environmental groups and universities in the Southern region, this organization provides education, training, leadership development and advocacy around environmental health and justice issues.
This organization focuses on protecting children from air pollution and climate change.
The IEN was established to build awareness, advocacy, and capacity to affect policies around the health and protection of people, land, air, water and natural resources.
This organization “organizes and empowers low-income people of color to build healthy communities for all” (WE ACT website).
Do you have feedback on this guide? We’d love to hear it! Please send feedback to April Wright.