Posted: November 23rd, 2016
HCA415 Community and Public Health Case Study 1: Environmental Injustice in Homer, Louisiana Do all citizens have equal rights to protection against threats to environmental health? This question arises both because minorities and poor in developed nations bear greater-than-average environmentalhealth risks and also because those in developing nations bear greater health risks than those in the developed world, in large part because of the policies of developed nations. For example, according to the US General Accounting Office, roughly one-third of all US pesticide exports are products that are banned or not registered for use in the US because they are deemed too dangerous. Instead the US ships them abroad. As already mentioned, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately half a million cases of accidental pesticide poisoning occur annually, with a death-to-poisoning ratio of 1 to 10. This means that each year, about 50,000 people die annually from pesticide poisoning, most in developing nations. One person is poisoned every minute from pesticides in developing nations (Mathews et al. 1986). Such disproportionate environmental-health impacts also affect those in the developed world. In 1983, African-American sociologist Bob Bullard largely began the whole area of study known as “environmental injustice” when he showed that (1996), from the 1920s through the 1970s, Houston placed almost all its city-owned landfills in African-American neighborhoods. Although they represented only 28 percent of the city’s population, African-American communities received 15 of 17 landfills and 6 of 8 incinerators. Bullard showed not only that minorities across the US faced disproportionate environmental-health threats from incinerators and toxic-waste dumps, but also that these added risks increased other public-health problems–such as crime, poverty, and drugs–in minority communities. Comparing pollution in different California ZIP codes, researchers likewise showed that in the dirtiest US ZIP code, in Los Angeles, industries release 5 times as much pollution as in the next-worst ZIP code. They concluded it is no accident that the dirtiest ZIP code is 59 percent African-American. Thus African-Americans appear to be victims of a special public-health problem, environmental injustice. To understand alternative perspectives on the issue of environmental injustice, disproportionate environmental risks’ being imposed on poor people and minorities, consider a recent case, a proposal to build a multinational, highly-polluting, uranium-enrichment facility in an African-American community in Homer, Louisiana. One of the poorest towns in the US, Homer has a per capita income of only about $ 5,000 per year. Members of the local community were able to oppose the proposed Claiborne Enrichment Center facility only because of help from outside experts, and their stopping the facility in 1997 became the first major environmental-justice victory in the US. Questions for discussion: Why would various parties want to locate a uranium-enrichment facility in Homer? Why might a multinational corporation want to build such a facility there? Why might residents welcome or oppose such a plan? Why would local businessmen or politicians welcome or oppose such a plan? Why would teachers, school administrators, and others concerned with public services welcome or oppose the building of such a facility? Why would “outsiders,” like environmental activists take an interest in Homer and the Claiborne facility? Who are the outsiders and insiders in cases of potential environmental pollution, and which should have the greater “say” in decisions about building a potential polluter? Why? Module 7: Ethical Issues in Environmental and Occupational Health 171 What data should inform a decision about whether to build? In addition to scientific data about the facility and its environmental impact, what other data are relevant? How certain or uncertain are these data? In the presence of scientific, economic, social, or other uncertainty, who should bear the burden of proof and why? Can a community give informed consent to the initiation of a project like building the Claiborne facility? How would such consent be similar to a process of individual informed consent, and how would it differ? Consider what is discussed in Module 4 on community-based practice and research and on the process of sharing power within communities. Which methods discussed in that module might be useful in Homer? What would need to be disclosed and to whom in order for the community of Homer to make an informed decision about building the Claiborne facility? Are all of the issues to be disclosed factual, or are there ethical assumptions that need to be disclosed as well? Who represents the community in such a decision? Is it the community’s decision to make? Consider some of the issues raised in Module 2 on the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and issues of race. What role does the predominant race of the residents of Homer play in the siting of the Claiborne facility there? Would you argue that the facility will benefit those of a minority group, African-Americans, or would you argue that they are being singled out to bear an environmental burden? Module 7: Ethical Issues in Environmental and Occupational Health 172 Case Study 1: Discussion Henry Payne (1997) argued that the proposed Claiborne Enrichment Center, in Homer, Louisiana, would have been desirable for the local African-American community but that outside environmental activists misled the community into criticizing the facility, which actually would be in the community’s best interests. Payne argued that these activists prevented Homer citizens from getting the industry and the jobs that they want and need. He argued that the proposed facility would bring jobs and an improved economy to a poor area, and yet that it would cause no serious environmental harm. Payne takes, as facts, (1) that the facility would have benefited minorities nearby, (2) that these minorities wanted it, (3) that outside activists did not want the facility, (4) that the proposed plant would help the local economy, and (5) that the facility would cause no serious public health or environmental harm. In claiming (5), Payne assumed (a) that in a situation of uncertainty, with little scientific study, ethics does not require people to be “safe rather than sorry.” He also assumed (b) that the absence of positive evidence of harm from the facility, or ignorance about the facility, was the same as a guarantee of safety about the facility. Thus he made the ethical assumption (c) that public health advocates bear the burden of proof in alleging harm from a proposed plant. Finally, Payne assumed (d) that the requirements (see Beauchamp and Childress 1994) of free informed consent (disclosure, understanding, voluntariness, and rationality) were met in the Louisiana case and that the minority community therefore actually consented to the proposed facility. In assessing the adequacy of the Payne account, one would need to evaluate his factual assumptions (1)(5) and his ethical assumptions (a)-(d). One also would need to take account of the fact that, in arguing for both his ethical and factual claims, Payne cited neither any scientific analyses nor any ethical and legal analyses to support his position. Instead, he relied on a commonsense assumption that manufacturing facilities bring economic benefits. Addressing Payne’s points, Daniel Wigley and Kristin Shrader-Frechette (1996), argued that both Payne’s factual and ethical assumptions are wrong, and they therefore claimed that siting the Louisiana facility is not justified. Shrader-Frechette and Wigley challenged both the factual assumption (1) that the plant would have benefited minorities and (5) as well as the ethical assumption (a) that ignorance about the facility justified believing it was safe. Analyzing the required environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the plant, they showed that its proponents failed to consider a number of costs of the facility and that these costs were likely to exceed the associated benefits. In particular, they argued that the jobs created by the plant would go to skilled white labor and professionals, not to unskilled blacks, and that the EIA included no probabilistic risk assessment of threats posed by the facility. Instead they revealed that the EIA made purely subjective judgments about site safety. Much of the Wigley and Shrader-Frechette (1996) analysis was devoted to showing that the EIA performed by the enrichment corporation (wishing to site the proposed facility) employed procedures that actually violated minority rights to free informed consent. In particular, Shrader-Frechette and Wigley showed, first, that the corporation did not disclose the actual nature of the facility to anyone, and instead asked citizens if they would like to have a manufacturing facility nearby. The company violated the disclosure requirement (for free informed consent), second, by covering up the radiological risks and health threats to be imposed by the facility and by failing to reveal that the onsite radiological wastes would not be covered by US government regulations. Third, the company did not reveal that the products of the multinational facility would likely be used abroad, not in the US. Nor did it reveal that Step 2:Download the question sheet for your selected case and address them in a Q/A format, using complete sentences. Please know that although this is not a formal written paper, you still use APA formatting: Module 7: Case Study 1 Environmental Injustice in Homer, Louisiana Explain why various parties might have selected Homer as a place to build a uranium-enrichment facility. In your response, review this from the angle of all stakeholders: city and local officials, residents, school system personnel, public services. Describe the reason why outsiders, like environmental activists, took an interest in this proposal. What was it about Homer or the plant that posed such interest from many stakeholders? Examine whether the facility would benefit this particular minority group (African Americans) or would it single out this group to bear an environmental burden. In other words, address the question: What role does the predominant race of the residents of Homer play in the siting of the Claiborne facility? (Roles could include jobs, community growth, improved economy, health hazards, social injustice…look at all angles of this situation.) Examine whether a community at large can give informed consent to the initiation of a project like the Claiborne facility and how would this differ from individual informed consent? Provide details on disclosures on both the positives and negatives of this project. Explain with solid evidence and support whether you believe this situation was one of industrial growth or environmental racism.
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