Environmental injustice, public health and solid waste facilities in North Carolina Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Norton, Jennifer M.
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Department of Epidemiology
  • Community groups in North Carolina are concerned that solid waste facilities may be disproportionately located in non-white and low-wealth communities, that this represents an environmental injustice, and that solid waste facilities negatively impact the health of host communities. However, the relationship between environmental injustice and health has not been fully evaluated. A conceptual model was developed as a basis for exploring the relationships between environmental injustice, solid waste, and health. While this model includes health impacts associated with direct exposures to toxicants, the emphasis is on the indirect effects of solid waste facilities on health through their impacts on the built environment. This model was used to inform analyses that evaluated the prevalence and occurrence of solid waste facilities in non-white communities compared to white communities and low-wealth communities compared to high-wealth communities in North Carolina. Communities were defined as census block groups in order to obtain information on racial and economic characteristics. Information on solid waste facilities was obtained through a review of solid waste facility records maintained by the North Carolina Division of Waste Management. The results of these analyses suggest that on average in North Carolina, the prevalence of solid waste facilities in 2003 was greater in non-white communities (50 to 100% non-white) compared to white communities (<10% non-white) (adjusted prevalence odds ratio [adjPOR]: 2.8; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.9, 4.1); and low-wealth communities (median house values <$60,000) compared to high-wealth communities (median house values less than or equal to $100,000) (adjPOR: 1.5; 95% CI: 0.9, 2.5). Among block groups that did not contain a previously permitted solid waste facility, the occurrence of solid waste facilities permitted between 1990-2003 was greater in non-white communities compared to white communities (adjusted hazard ratio: 2.7; 95% CI: 1.3, 5.7). Solid waste facilities present numerous public health concerns including potential for water contamination, traffic safety, malodors, and impacts on health promoting resources. As proposals to site additional solid waste facilities in North Carolina are discussed, these results should be considered to minimize the disproportionate impacts on non-white and low-wealth communities.
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  • Wing, Steve
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