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An Examination of Accidental-Release Scenarios from Chemical-Processing Sites: The Relation of Race to Distance

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Abstract:

Objective. This study is intended to enhance the discussion of environmental equity by offering a methodology that is based on chemical-specific risk zones that reflect inventories of chemical facilities, risk dispersion modeling, local weather conditions, and the unique chemical processes of each site. The central question concerns whether the racial makeup of a community near a chemical-processing site is characteristic of the city, county, or community as a whole. In essence, does the racial makeup of a community vary by distance from a chemical-processing facility? Methods. A comparison of the racial makeup of the community was examined for 13 chemical-processing sites submitting off-site consequence data under the Environmental Protection Agency Risk Management Plan, by clusters of the sites, and for all sites in the community. Instead of relative ratios, we look at odds ratios. The odds ratio compares the odds of being African American to the odds of being non-African American at two given distance classes. In this way we may make inferences about how much higher (or lower) are the odds of an African American (relative to a non-African American) living in a closer distance class (as opposed to a further distance class). Results. The results show that as one moves further from a facility, the characteristics of the community reflect less and less the makeup near the site. The percentage of African Americans living near a chemical-processing site tends to be much higher when compared to population characteristics further from the site. Conclusions. The study shows that distance does make a significant difference in the racial characteristics of the population from a chemical-processing site. Using data reflecting accidental-release scenarios, weather conditions, and the chemical process from the local community provides a more realistic basis for determining vulnerability zones.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1540-6237.00085

Affiliations: Louisiana State University

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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