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J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 1999 Jan-Feb;9(1):56-65.

Environmental justice and statistical summaries of differences in exposure distributions.

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  • 1University of Minnesota, School of Public Health, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


Recent regulatory action requires the assessment of environmental justice (equitable protection from the burdens of environmental hazards across sociodemographic subpopulations) in the siting of hazardous waste sites, and prioritization of environmental remediation efforts. Assessments of environmental justice require linking exposure, demographic, and health data. The geographic nature of the data makes the use of geographic information systems attractive for environmental justice assessments. Typical geographic assessments compare the composition of 'exposed' populations, while typical statistical assessments focus on differences in health outcomes between population subgroups, possibly adjusted for exposure. We outline an alternate approach based on summarized differences between exposure distributions within each population subgroup. We illustrate how such summaries provide a tool for site evaluation (e.g., defining exposure inequities resulting from locating a new potential hazard at any of a number of possible sites). In addition, we describe summaries, based on dose-response relationships, to describe risk differences imposed by the observed exposure differences. Reported toxic emissions from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania illustrate the approach.

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