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Few and Far Between? An Environmental Equity Analysis of the Geographic Distribution of Hazardous Waste Generation

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Objective. This article examines whether the generation of hazardous waste is concentrated in communities that are disproportionately minority or low income. Whereas much environmental equity research has focused on commercial facilities managing hazardous waste, facilities that generate and manage their own wastes—which account for over 98 percent of hazardous waste volume—have been ignored. Methods. The demographic characteristics were determined of people in geographic concentric rings around hazardous waste generators accounting for most of the country's 1997 hazardous waste volume. Results. My analyses indicate no tendency for disproportionately minority communities to be near these facilities. In fact, relatively few people are near where most hazardous waste is generated. Although a few of these facilities have large numbers of minority people around them, most are in areas with higher than average white populations. There was, however, a tendency for low-income communities to be near these facilities. Conclusions. To the extent that there are potential risks from the presence of hazardous waste at facilities, most of this risk is in relatively unpopulated areas. The presence of hazardous waste is not concentrated in areas that are disproportionately minority or low income.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: North Carolina State University

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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