Have you ever wondered if there are any harmful environmental impacts in your area? There are many avenues to find out that information but now you can add another – this one created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To facilitate the EPA’s stated mission of protecting human health and the environment for all Americans, the EPA has created a new environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool called EJSCREEN. EJSCREEN will replace the agency’s old tool, EJView, beginning September 2015. EPA defines “environmental justice” as follows: “Environmental Justice is 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. Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.” Environmental justice is an important, sensitive and sometimes hard to measure subject. Environmental justice advocates make a strong case that at-risk communities bear more than their fair share of environmental burdens. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Communities of color, which are often poor, are routinely targeted to host facilities that have negative environmental impacts – say, a landfill, dirty industrial plant or truck depot.” These communities have been battling this injustice for a long time. It is important to have specific databases designed to identify the environmental burdens of every community in the U.S. so identifying which groups and areas are experiencing higher levels of, for example, toxic chemical releases, cancer risks from hazardous air pollutants or proximity to Superfund sites and polluting facilities that are emitting smog and particulates.
What is EJSCREEN?EJSCREEN is an environmental justice mapping and screening tool that provides the EPA with national data by identifying places that may have higher environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. The user can choose a geographic location and the tool will provide demographic and environmental information for that area. All of the indicators loaded into database are publicly available, but the EJSCREEN puts it all together in a way that is easier to view and includes a way to combine information.
- 12 environmental indicators, including air quality, traffic proximity, lead paint indicator and water.
- 6 demographic indicators, including percent of low-income, minority and non-English speaking population.
- 12 environmental justice (EJ) indexes, including National Scale Air Toxics Assessment Air Toxics Cancer Risk, National Scale Air Toxics Assessment Respiratory Hazard Index and National Scale Air Toxics Assessment Neurological Hazard Index.
For more information about the data used and the limitation of that data, visit http://www2.epa.gov/ejscreen/overview-environmental-indicators-ejscreen.
Some ways in which EJSCREEN can be used:
- To identify areas with potential environmental quality issues.
- To support educational programs. To assist with grant writing by providing necessary information.
- To support community awareness efforts.
- To create a common starting point when looking at issues related to environmental justice.
For more information about EJSCREEN and how it can be used, visit the EPA’s EJSCREEN site.