CHE Science Cafe call: Sacrifice Zones: The Front Lines of Toxic Chemical Exposure in the United States: a conversation with author, Steve Lerner

November 15, 2010
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Listen to Recording

Low-income Americans and people of color who live Sacrifice Zones book coverimmediately adjacent to heavy industry and military bases are subjected to higher levels of pollution than more affluent citizens and suffer disproportionately severe health effects. Through studies of twelve communities across the US, Sacrifice Zones (MIT Press / September 2010) a new book by Steve Lerner, describes the plague of environmentally induced diseases that people who live nearby heavy industry endure, and shows how these communities are rising up to take action against the polluters.

The book is based on hundreds of interviews of residents of communities on the fenceline with heavy industry. Lerner lets the victims of environmental injustice speak in their own words and describe in detail what they experience and how they are organizing to improve their quality of life and protect themselves.

CHE hosted a discussion with Steve Lerner. Elise Miller, CHE Director, moderated the conversation.

Lerner contends that:

  • Environmental injustices are widespread and that many residents of low-income, heavily minority communities are exposed to a disproportionate level of toxic chemicals not experienced by more affluent citizens in exclusively residential neighborhoods.
  • The US regulatory system is not set up to deal with these “hot spots” of pollution along the borders with heavy industry, and a serious effort will be required to protect this vulnerable population.
  • Mixing residential and industrial zones is inherently dangerous and that buffer zones should be required as breathing room between these very different land uses.
  • A number of reforms will be necessary in order to reduce the damage being inflicted in these communities.