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Equity dimensions of hazardous waste generation in rapidly industrialising cities along the United States-Mexico border

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During the last 30 years, researchers and policy analysts have voiced concerns about the potential impact of pollution and hazard generated by foreign-owned manufacturing companies operating in Mexican cities bordering the USA. Despite the salience of the problem, to date, efforts to characterise unequal exposure to hazard in these cities have produced limited and inconclusive evidence. This study examines the relationship between the spatial distribution of hazardous waste generation facilities and socio-economic characteristics of neighbourhoods in the Mexican border city of Nogales. It assembles a geographic information system (GIS) to relate demographic data with an inventory of export-oriented industrial facilities and explores whether there is a spatial correlation between the location of these facilities, different levels of hazard and the neighbourhoods' socio-economic characteristics. In contrast to prevailing environmental justice findings, it is suggested that industry siting is not primarily associated with the location of low socio-economic status neighbourhoods in the city of Nogales. Rather, it shows that the spatial distribution of hazards seems to be influenced mainly by the location and accessibility of urban and transportation infrastructure, suggesting that the environmental equity hypothesis may have to be reframed in the context of rapidly developing urban areas with basic infrastructure deficits.
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Keywords: North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); US-Mexico border; environmental equity; hazardous waste; maquiladora industry; spatial distribution

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Planning, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA 2: School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA 3: School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA 4: El Colegio de Sonora, Hermosillo, Mexico

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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