Environmental Racism Collection: Exposure and Health Inequities in Black Americans

View the article collection at Environmental Health Perspectives.

Racism systematically constructs inequities by conferring advantages upon one racial/ethnic group at the expense of others. Environmental racism is a critically important component of this broader system. Over many decades, the discriminatory policies and practices that constitute environmental racism have disproportionately burdened minority neighborhoods with polluting facilities such as toxic waste sites, landfills, and chemical plants. Environmental racism concentrates disadvantaged populations in substandard housing and compromised communities, where hazardous exposures are much more likely. 

To understand environmental racism is to understand, in part, the inequity that drives health disparities in Black Americans, who face higher rates of infant mortality as well as death from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, multiple cancers, homicide, and HIV, compared with White counterparts. Black Americans are also more likely to die younger overall. Yet this and other racial/ethnic groups tend to be underrepresented in studies of many of the chronic diseases that affect them disproportionately.

For this collection, we have gathered articles that represent a variety of exposures and health outcomes, some unique to Black Americans and some that are concentrated in Black Americans. As we write this, a disproportionate number of Black Americans are also contracting and dying of COVID-19, and nationwide protests are invoking America’s history of environmental racism and other injustices.

At this unprecedented time in U.S. consciousness, we at EHP are reflecting upon our own ability, as a scholarly journal, to shine a light on racism as not just a social determinant of health but a public health crisis. To this end, we invite authors to submit papers that explicitly address environmental racism, including associated exposures and outcomes as well as potential interventions and mitigation activities.

The Editors, Environmental Health Perspectives

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