Maps: The Poorest Areas in America Are Often the Most Polluted

A sewage plant looms in the background of Barreto Point Park in the South Bronx.Mary Altaffer/AP

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The environmental justice movement has been fighting the hazards and toxins disproportionately affecting poor communities of color for decades. Now it has a new tool.

The US Environmental Protection Agency recently made public an interactive map that allows people to see how their communities’ exposure to hazardous waste, air pollution, and other environmental risks stack up with the rest of the country. “EJSCREEN” combines demographic data and environmental factors to create an “environmental justice index.” Environmental data includes vulnerability to air toxins and high particulate levels, exposure to lead-based paint, and proximity to chemical and hazardous waste treatment centers.

We started to explore the map, focusing on a few major cities. Not surprisingly, notoriously impoverished neighborhoods like West Oakland, the Bronx, and East New Orleans have the worst environmental justice indexes in many cases:

Hazardous waste:

New York City:

EPA EJSCREEN

San Francisco Bay Area:

Air pollution:

New York City:

EPA EJSCREEN

San Francisco Bay Area:

EPA EJSCREEN

Water discharge facilities:

New York City:

EPA EJSCREEN

New Orleans:

EPA EJSCREEN

Lead-based paint exposure:

New York City:

EPA EJSCREEN

San Francisco Bay Area:

EPA EJSCREEN

EPA EJSCREEN

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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