Assessing Environmental Health Concerns Sociology Essay Example
Assessing Environmental Health Concerns Sociology Essay Example

Assessing Environmental Health Concerns Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3053 words)
  • Published: September 9, 2017
  • Type: Essay
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Environmental wellness has become a significant issue in recent decades, particularly since the late 20th century. The expansion of industrial construction and population growth following World War I resulted in negative environmental consequences and a decline in population in certain areas. These once prosperous locations became undesirable due to industrial pollution, leading to a decrease in population throughout many communities in New York City.

There is evidence supporting the impact of these toxins on people's perceptions as they become more aware of the dangers at hand. Once an area gains a reputation for being polluted, it loses its appeal as a place to live and becomes home to marginalized populations, especially minorities. It is important to question individuals' level of awareness regarding pollution hazards and how they have been addressed.

This problem has been passed down thro


ugh generations, with racially-charged environmental injustices affecting youth in these communities. Hunts Point in the Bronx, NY is heavily affected by pollution, posing risks to the health and future of its residents. This poses an even greater concern for children who are exposed to harmful toxins from their homes, schools, and surroundings.

If these toxins were not present in this location, the community as a whole would experience greater comfort across various aspects of life.The city of New York must decide whether to accept the continuation of this situation or take appropriate action. Hunts Point, formerly a prosperous economic zone, suffered environmental repercussions in the latter part of the 20th century due to its economic successes. This led to efforts to address these issues. Like the rest of the Bronx borough, property and living conditions significantly deteriorated in the 1970s an

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1980s. Only in recent years, starting from the late 1990s until now, has attention been given to helping the neighborhood recover. However, several challenges persist, including being used as a dumping ground for New York City's waste. Until this problem is resolved, most residents of Hunts Point will likely continue facing economic and social difficulties. New York City is well-known for its diverse neighborhoods. One example is the South Bronx region which makes up about 40 percent (around 522,412 people) of the total population in the Bronx borough. According to U.S Census data from 2004, approximately 39 percent of South Bronx's population identifies as Black while around 60 percent identifies as Latino.This research primarily focuses on Hunts Point located in South Bronx.A minority group refers to one that differs from the majority based on race, religion or cultural background according to's definitionIn the context of Hunts Point, Caucasians are considered a minority compared to Latinos and Blacks. This means that they have limited power or representation in this predominantly Hispanic and Black community. In 2004, around 75 percent of the population in Hunts Point was Hispanic, while New York City as a whole had a Hispanic population of 27 percent and the Bronx had 48 percent. The Black population accounted for about 24 percent in Hunts Point, similar to New York City's 25 percent but slightly lower than the Bronx's 31 percent. Only one percent of the population in Hunts Point is white, whereas New York City has a white population of 35 percent and the Bronx has 15 percent. These statistics are based on data from various communities within New York City. Approximately

half of Hunts Point residents live in poverty. In 2008, there were approximately 11,365 people living in Holman Hunts Point with around 5,114 below the poverty line. Several factors contribute to this situation including immigration rates, lack of education opportunities, teenage pregnancy rates, and high crime levels. However, when comparing it to other locations, immigration cannot be considered as the primary cause of poverty in Hunts Point because the percentage of foreign-born residents is not excessively high.The text highlights the significant role that lack of education plays in higher crime rates and teenage pregnancy incidents, particularly in Hunts Point within New York State. Due to these circumstances, living in Hunts Point is considered inconvenient and unattractive. This community is ranked among the lowest income communities in America, with an average household income of approximately $21,000 for four members. Poverty affects 45% of the population in Hunts Point, despite affordable housing overall. Many struggle to afford rent while facing a significant unemployment crisis. The poor quality of houses mainly consisting of apartment buildings with serious housing code violations hinders homeownership opportunities for those unable to afford rents. Consequently, only a few occupants live in houses within Hunts Point. This lack of residential buildings and questionable housing regulations negatively impact the community's well-being and raise concerns about similar issues occurring in new homes. Currently, there are 15,691 housing units in Hunts Point, out of which 14,446 are occupied - 13,017 rented and 1,429 owned.The shortage of single-family homes and low homeownership rate in this community necessitates potential homeowners to search for housing elsewhere. The community would benefit from a more diverse income mix and higher rates of

homeownership as it promotes stability. Homeownership is especially important in impoverished communities like Hunts Point as it provides financial independence and stimulates the local economy by granting access to credit markets. Additionally, it encourages residents to actively participate in their communities, safeguarding their investment and fostering overall involvement. Nevertheless, there are concerns regarding low-income residential buildings and the affordability of rent for local residents that need attention. The high unemployment rate in Hunts Point, where less than 50% of the population is employed, results in many individuals lacking health insurance or primary care providers and relying on emergency rooms instead. This places a burden on taxpayers since New York state covers these expenses. Furthermore, the lack of employment opportunities exacerbates challenges faced by residents who often lack necessary skills or certifications for available jobs. Although a few local businesses offer employment opportunities, most Hunts Point residents have limited education levels. The following graph illustrates the extremely low educational attainment within this community.
Given the high unemployment rate, education plays a crucial role in this situation. The lack of education significantly contributes to barriers preventing Hunts Point residents from obtaining stable employment. The local workforce lacks formal education and basic employment skills such as professionalism, work ethics, and written and verbal communication. They also lack essential administrative skills like answering phones, typing, word processing, or familiarity with computers and mainstream software. Limited proficiency in English among Spanish-speaking residents poses a major obstacle as 98% of the population speaks Spanish at home and 30% lack proficiency in English. Additionally, unprofessional appearance and behavior are challenges faced by Hunts Point residents. Substance abuse, failed drug tests, and criminal records

discourage potential employers from hiring them. Unfortunately, these mistakes lead to negative stereotypes being applied to the entire workforce in Hunts Point. Out of approximately 11 thousand people residing in Hunts Point, around 9,357 individuals have employment opportunities within the local economy primarily in manufacturing transportation and public utilities sector construction industrial sectorsResidents of Hunts Point not only face competition from foreigners seeking job prospects, but they also contend with the challenges of living in an unsafe community plagued by crime and drugs. However, the most significant obstacle they confront is pollution, which remains a persistent issue regardless of whether they encounter criminal activity or drug-related problems upon entering Hunts Point.

This neighborhood bears responsibility for handling 40% of the entire City's waste and 100% of the Bronx's waste. It accommodates several facilities that contribute to pollution such as a Sewage Treatment Plant, Sewage Pelletizing Plant, four Electrical Power Plants, and the world's largest food distributor - resulting in approximately 60,000 trucks entering Hunts Point weekly. Additionally, there are multiple waste processing facilities within just a one-mile radius along with various other manufacturing uses that further contribute to environmental degradation.

One notable example illustrating this problem is the establishment of New York Organic Fertilizer Co. (NYOFCO) by Synagro back in 1993. The creation of NYOFCO has sparked protests due to concerns about environmental discrimination against low-income minority communities. Local residents argue that toxic industries are placed in this area solely based on available physical space without considering how it affects the aesthetics and well-being of their neighborhood.The issue of whether waste should be dumped on poor rural communities instead of urban ones has historically been answered affirmatively,

according to public health expert David Rosner. The United Church of Christ's 1987 study titled "Toxic Wastes and Race" supports the idea that race played a significant role in determining the placement of hazardous waste facilities. NYOFCO, which processes approximately 300 tons per day (about 40% of the city's sewage sludge) into fertilizer pellets, initially seemed beneficial but has had negative effects on Holman Hunts Point and its surrounding communities. The facility emits an unpleasant smell that discourages residents from opening their windows or enjoying picnics at Barretto Point Park, located next to it. Additionally, NYOFCO contributes to early onset asthma and various cardiovascular issues due to emissions from their smokestacks. Originally established with environmental benefits in mind, NYOFCO was faced with three waste disposal options under regulations imposed by the Clean Air Act of 1972 and the Ocean Dumping Act of 1988: incineration, landfill dumping, or transitioning to fertilizer production.The city conducted a thorough evaluation and concluded that NYOFCO should focus on fertilizer production. Consequently, they developed two types of fertilizers utilizing human waste, food waste, refuse, and industrial waste. These fertilizers are then shipped to Florida and the Midwest for utilization in orange and soybean farming.

One type of fertilizer is called Class A. It has a lower concentration of chemicals and is mixed with other materials to create an environmentally-friendly option. To eliminate pathogens, the city's sewage sludge undergoes heat treatment and transformation into fertilizer pellets. While this process effectively eliminates pathogens, it does not affect metals such as iron, lead, and zinc.

In contrast to Class A fertilizer which raises minimal concerns about safety, Class B fertilizer is considered unsafe due to its

inadequate heating process that only kills certain bacteria. Tragically, in 2002, there was a fatality involving a farmer who died one month after spreading Class B fertilizer on their pasture in New Hampshire. The consequences of distributing this type of fertilizer can be catastrophic if even a single farmer is harmed on their land.The NYOFCO facility produces harmful substances, including PCBs, chlorinated pesticides (such as DDT and chlordane), dioxins, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals (like arsenic and mercury), among others. These toxins constantly impact the entire population who are exposed to them. The facility also releases hazardous substances like bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, asbestos, and industrial solvents into the environment. Unfortunately, their warming process is unable to eliminate all of these chemicals. Many of these toxins are released into the air and eventually return as rainwater that nourishes plants and enters our water systems. Despite efforts from organizations to prevent the spread of these harmful chemicals, their success has been limited.

However, there is recent news about NYOFCO: it will be shut down by the end of June 2010 according to city officials. This closure aims to save $18 million by redirecting waste to landfills. While NYOFCO will still operate after the closure, it will no longer have New York City as its primary customer. As a result, fewer toxins are expected to be emitted into the air from this facility. It's important to note that the expiration of NYOFCO's contract with the city was primarily due to economic reasons rather than environmental concerns.Despite the potential hindrance caused by a lack of funds, NYOFCO may struggle to update its technology and as a result, continue to

emit pollutants and produce unpleasant odors despite reduced production. However, there are those who view the closure of NYOFCO as a positive step towards improving the social reputation of the community. This specific example in Hunts Point is just one instance contributing to pollution in the area. It is crucial for this newly acquired information regarding NYOFCO's closure and its impact on emissions to raise concerns about contamination in our food and water sources. Toxic industries like NYOFCO located in the South Bronx pose a significant issue for residents who endure environmental injustice. This reflects their marginalized position within society's hierarchy since wealthier neighborhoods would never tolerate such industries nearby. Communities and individuals do not reap any benefits from hazardous waste facilities. Majora Carter, representing Sustainable South Bronx, emphasizes that no community should have to bear greater environmental burdens while receiving fewer environmental benefits compared to others. It is evident that race continues to play a substantial role in zoning harmful industries, resulting in what can be described as environmental racism according to Miss Carter. She highlights that minorities are twice as likely as white individuals to reside in areas with high levels of air pollution, thereby posing considerable health risks for them.
In addition, there is a disproportionate distribution of pollution towards minorities and inadequate environmental advantages in Hunts Point. Majora Carter, who resides in the area, experiences this firsthand. This unequal distribution indicates the presence of environmental racism. Given the demographics and existence of harmful industrial installations in Hunts Point, it is crucial to examine some of the toxins present and their impact on the entire population.

Although it is impossible to discuss all toxins

due to an abundance of information available, we will focus on a few specific ones in this discussion. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) pose a significant environmental threat in Hunts Point. These harmful chemicals primarily come from abundant sewage sludge found in the area. When incinerated, PCBs are released into the atmosphere and can eventually mix with rainwater. Interestingly, contaminated foods like fish and meat that end up in Hunts Point serve as the main source of exposure to PCBs.

The pollution of New York Harbor also raises concerns due to shared infrastructure. It contains 27 billion gallons of sewage and stormwater contaminated by pollutants from rainfall, household waste, and industrial effluent. Many residents of Hunts Point rely on these waterways for fishing and recreational activities without realizing they are exposing themselves to dangerous chemicals.Pregnant women in Hunts Point face a heightened risk due to exposure to PCBs and lead. While adults may only suffer from skin issues like acne and rashes from PCB exposure, pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. The negative effects of PCBs on unborn babies can result in low birth weight, impaired motor skills, memory problems, and weakened immune systems among children. Lead exposure is also a concern for residents of Hunts Point. Lead can cause various harmful effects such as anemia, hearing loss, stunted skeletal growth, delayed puberty, dental issues, cognitive and behavioral deficits, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and non-specific symptoms.

In the impoverished area of Hunts Point where many children live below the poverty line and reside in deteriorating housing conditions that increase their risk of lead poisoning, it is common to find lead in old paint. Interacting with paint containing lead is highly

dangerous for children. Dust contaminated with lead can be found on walls with deteriorating paint in these deteriorating places and schools.

If pregnant women have lead in their bones due to exposure when they were younger or currently exposed as adults since females tend to retain it in their bones if pregnant women have lead transfer into the baby's bloodstream through this process. Even a small amount of exposure to lead absorbed into the body's tissues can significantly impact a child's health.

The most prevalent sources of lead exposure in Hunts Point include contaminated industries heavy traffic and tainted water which are particularly prevalent in the South Bronx area.Lead poisoning is a major concern for children, as it has been shown to lower their IQs according to multiple scientific studies. Once lead enters the bloodstream, its effects cannot be reversed. Living in impoverished areas like Hunts Point exposes residents to lead-containing paints, making it difficult to prevent lead poisoning. Additionally, the air quality in Hunts Point poses a challenge in preventing asthma symptoms in children.

In New York City, approximately 300,000 kids (about 17% of children aged 17 and under) have experienced asthma at some point. In the South Bronx, this percentage is even higher, ranging from 20-30%. Asthma can be caused by various pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and ozone (O3). However, this paper will specifically focus on diesel fume particles as a significant contributing factor.

Hunts Point is located near a major highway with thousands of diesel trucks passing through daily. As a result, the air in Hunts Point is highly polluted and contains fine particulate matter known as PM2.5

or black carbon. These particles are smaller than 2.5 and are closely associated with lung and heart disease as well as asthma.

Asthma greatly impacts a child's school life by causing attacks at any time for various reasons. This leads to school absences and limited participation in extracurricular activities like physical education.In addition, minority populations are experiencing an increase in asthma rates. Approximately 20% of students from pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade in the South Bronx attend schools located within 150 meters (500 feet) or less than two city blocks from major main roads that have higher air pollution levels compared to background levels. Within a two-block radius in the Bronx, there are industries like NYOFCO, which can exacerbate asthma symptoms. The hospitalization rate for asthma in this area is about seven times higher than the national average, and residents face a death rate approximately three times higher. The graph illustrates that asthma surpasses other areas in New York State specifically in the Bronx. Additionally, some children display asthma symptoms but remain undiagnosed medically. It becomes evident that education plays a crucial role in poverty when considering all these factors. Pollution not only affects Hunts Point but also other locations by having severe health consequences for its inhabitants, especially children. Various health threats extend beyond specific diseases and have broader impacts as well. It comes as no surprise that Hunts Point residents struggle with poverty since excessive pollution leads to increased health issues that greatly hinder individuals' success and contribute to ongoing poverty. Children's attitudes are influenced by their surroundings; if they witness their peers not attending school, they may lose interest as wellThe child's behavior is

a reflection of the entire community as they may lack knowledge about job maintenance or securing one due to witnessing their parents being unemployed.

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