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Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Cumulative Environmental Health Impacts in California: Evidence From a Statewide Environmental Justice Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen 1.1)



We used an environmental justice screening tool (CalEnviroScreen 1.1) to compare the distribution of environmental hazards and vulnerable populations across California communities.


CalEnviroScreen 1.1 combines 17 indicators created from 2004 to 2013 publicly available data into a relative cumulative impact score. We compared cumulative impact scores across California zip codes on the basis of their location, urban or rural character, and racial/ethnic makeup. We used a concentration index to evaluate which indicators were most unequally distributed with respect to race/ethnicity and poverty.


The unadjusted odds of living in one of the 10% most affected zip codes were 6.2, 5.8, 1.9, 1.8, and 1.6 times greater for Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and other or multiracial individuals, respectively, than for non-Hispanic Whites. Environmental hazards were more regressively distributed with respect to race/ethnicity than poverty, with pesticide use and toxic chemical releases being the most unequal.


Environmental health hazards disproportionately burden communities of color in California. Efforts to reduce disparities in pollution burden can use simple screening tools to prioritize areas for action.

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