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Report Highlights Health Risk Scores of Virginia’s Most Toxic Communities

"Virginia is one of the most toxic states in the nation with the majority of health risk concentrated in communities of color"

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From the VA Sierra Club:

Report Highlights Health Risk Scores of Virginia’s Most Toxic Communities

Virginia is one of the most toxic states in the nation with the majority of health risk concentrated in communities of color

RICHMOND, Virginia – The Sierra Club Virginia Chapter released a report today entitled Air Toxins and Health Risk in Virginia. The report analyzes data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2019 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and its associated Risk Screening Environmental Indicator (RSEI) scores. RSEI scores are determined by the EPA and reflect potential risk of chronic illness from toxic exposure.

With a total RSEI score of 10,993,849, Virginia ranks as the 8th most toxic state in the nation. Since RSEI scores are a measurement of comparison, Virginia’s toxic risk is more than 33,000 times higher than the lowest RSEI scoring state (Vermont, with a score of 333). No RSEI scores were included in the report issued by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, demonstrating a dereliction of duty to inform the public about environmental health risks from toxic sources.

“This report shows that our state leaders and agencies continue to let polluters off the hook at the expense of public health,” said Kate West, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. “People have a right to know if corporate polluters in their community could be making them ill. The emissions from these toxic facilities pose serious health risks that can and should be reduced.”

 

The report finds that the vast majority of the highest risk scoring facilities are located in communities predominantly populated with People of Color, underscoring the need to further address environmental racism in the commonwealth.

“The disproportionate impacts highlighted in our report are frustratingly unsurprising,” said Gustavo Angeles, Environmental Justice coordinator for the Virginia Chapter. “There is a long history of sacrificing communities of color for the sake of polluters’ profit, and the legacy of racist policies like redlining continue to foster a concentration of pollution experienced by People Of Color.”

 

The report provides rankings and profiles of the top 10 zip codes with the highest risk of illness as well as the highest potential risk of cancer. In terms of highest potential health risks, Richmond, Radford, and Hopewell, Arlington, and Newport News rank as the top five, with the greater Richmond area representing more than 3,000,000 of Virginia’s total score.The top localities home to the top cancer risk scoring facilities include Richmond, Hopewell, Arlington, and Newport News.

 

“Exposure to toxins in the environment can cause cancer. Many of them are known carcinogens.,” said Dr. Joan Schiller, an Oncologist and member of the Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action. “Our leaders cannot commit to protecting our health if they continue to fail at protecting our environment.”

The full report can be found at https://vasierra.club/airtoxics2019.pdf. A list of the top risk scoring facilities can be found on page 21. A one pager describing macro insights of the report can be found at https://vasierra.club/images/toxics.report.toplines.png.

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About the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter: The Virginia Chapter is a grassroots-driven organization that advocates for a Virginia where all people may enjoy our natural treasures, access clean air and water, and thrive in a healthy community. At over 20,000 members strong, we coordinate action to promote climate solutions and oppose projects and policies that put the interests of corporate polluters above the needs of communities. The Virginia Chapter is part of the national Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org/virginia

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