Healthy Built Environment

What we found:

The data showcases that Latinx, Black, and Asian Californians experience far worse environmental conditions than White people, including greater exposure to hazardous clean-up sites and toxins released from facilities. Black, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander Californians are less likely to have access to green space. This lack of access means that communities of color are more likely to live around concrete surfaces. This is problematic because of increased local temperatures since roads, parking lots, and other concrete or paved surfaces absorb and reemit more solar heat than grass, trees, and other natural surfaces. Another troubling factor is that about 1 out of every 5 Black or AIAN (American Indian, Indigenous, American Native) Californians is more likely to have asthma because of these worsening conditions.

Why this issue matters for racial equity?

Public investments in the built environment often leave out low-income communities of color, where they lack access to hospitals, clinics, healthy food, supermarkets, and other environmental resources. Historically, White suburban development has been prioritized as densely populated inner-city infrastructures were defunded. This increased geographic segregation exacerbated unequal public federal, and state investments for urban, low-income people of color.

Policy levers:

While changing the built environment can be a slow process, organizers and advocates are working tirelessly to achieve meaningful reform—such as ending fracking and oil drilling, closing facilities that release toxins in low-income communities of color, and increasing the use of green energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other significant advocacy efforts focus on land use policy to promote healthy communities, including safe, healthy, affordable housing, parks, and green space.

Key Takeaways

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Healthy Built Environment: Statewide Latinxs have the most exposure to drinking water contaminants, followed by American Indians / Alaska Natives.
Healthy Built Environment: Latinxs are subject to twice as much exposure to toxic releases, like chemical emissions into the air, as Whites.
Healthy Built Environment: African Americans, Asians, and Latinx are most likely to live in areas with less greenspace.

07 of 7 key issues

Healthy Built Environment

Access to clean water is critical for basic human health as it’s used for drinking, cleaning, cooking and bathing. Drinking contaminated water can increase a family’s risk for disease including cancer.

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