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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The drinking water disparities framework: on the origins and persistence of inequities in exposure.

  • Author(s): Balazs, Carolina L
  • Ray, Isha
  • et al.

With this article, we develop the Drinking Water Disparities Framework to explain environmental injustice in the context of drinking water in the United States. The framework builds on the social epidemiology and environmental justice literatures, and is populated with 5 years of field data (2005-2010) from California's San Joaquin Valley. We trace the mechanisms through which natural, built, and sociopolitical factors work through state, county, community, and household actors to constrain access to safe water and to financial resources for communities. These constraints and regulatory failures produce social disparities in exposure to drinking water contaminants. Water system and household coping capacities lead, at best, to partial protection against exposure. This composite burden explains the origins and persistence of social disparities in exposure to drinking water contaminants.

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