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Who's Minding the Kids? Pollucion, Public Schools, and Environmental Justice in Los Angeles

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Objective. Although previous environmental justice research has focused on analysis of the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards on minority residents, few studies have examined demographic inequities in health risks among children. This article evaluates the demographic distribution of potentially hazardous facilities and health risks associated with ambient air toxics exposures among public schoolchildren in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Methods. We combine Geographic Information System analysis with multivariate statistics to compare enrollment and demographic information for students who attend district schools with the spatial pattern of land use, locations of toxic emissions and facilities, and calculated indices of estimated lifetime cancer risk and respiratory hazards associated with exposures to toxic air emissions. Results. District schools are more likely to be located in census tracts containing potentially hazardous facilities; however, these tracts actually have slightly lower cancer and respiratory health risks associated with air toxics when compared to other tracts in the district. Demographic comparisons among school sites indicate that minority students, especially Latinos, are more likely to attend schools near hazardous facilities and face higher health risks associated with outdoor air toxics exposure. Conclusions. These patterns of hazard exposure and health risk should be considered both in the process of siting new schools to house the rapidly growing regional student population and in remediation efforts at existing schools.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of California–Santa Cruz, 2: Occidental College, 3: San Fransisco State University

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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