Hard living in a toxic city

The extent to which communities live in hazardous conditions is overlooked.

The word environmentalism often brings to question environmental sustainability and saving trees. What is ignored is the notion of environmental justice, a description that seeks to provide equal protection from toxic waste and hazardous material for all neighborhoods. Nonwhite people, marginalized communities, the immigrant population and those living in concentrated areas are often left out of environmental policymaking and consequently are forgotten when the discussion takes place.

Many live near hazardous dumps, in the midst of high levels of mercury, lead, arsenic and unhealthful water. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has identified 108 superfund sites in the state that need cleanup or require continued maintenance.

Superfund sites are old industrial factories that are left to rot in our neighborhoods. Often those under the poverty lines are the same ones to find superfund sites near their neighborhoods. Superfund sites are known for causing infertility, birth defects, respiratory problems and other health impairment. Lead and mercury are also problems in these same neighborhoods.

In Hennepin County there are about 10,000 homes with high risks of lead hazards, according to scorecard.org. Lead does not affect only those who eat it, it also can be released into the air and poison individuals who breathe the substance. It is responsible for increasing hyperactivity, stunting and damaging growth, reducing IQ and causing learning disabilities, as well as a variety of physical, mental and behavioral problems.

Not too far from campus is the Minneapolis Riverside coal-fired plant, which produces the highest mercury emissions in the region; the plant also sits on a poor-immigrant concentrated area.

Environmentalism is more than saving trees; students should incorporate environmental justice with environmentalism. Many of us live in such neighborhoods, or know individuals who are forced to live in these hazardous conditions. The student body is a potentially powerful bloc we should mobilize around this issue that without doubt affects many.