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Mapping Environmental Injustice: Disparities in chemical exposures and neurodevelopmental outcomes

July 2 , 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EDT

One in six children in the U.S. has a developmental disability and the prevalence of those disabilities has increased over the past decade. Families with low incomes and families of color have long faced disproportionate exposures to toxic chemicals and pollutants known to hinder brain development. These inequities stem from histories of discriminatory policies. 

A recently published literature review, initiated by Project TENDR (Targeting Environmental Neuro-Development Risks), sheds light on the disparities in neurodevelopmental outcomes in children in low-income families and communities of color in the United States. The scoping review, which analyzes more than 200 studies conducted between 1974 and 2022, maps existing literature on seven neurotoxicants, including combustion-related air pollution, lead, mercury, pesticides, phthalates, PBDEs, and PCBs. 

“As a result of discriminatory practices and policies, families with low incomes and families of color are currently and historically disproportionately exposed to chemicals without their knowledge or consent where they live, work, play, pray, and learn,” says co-lead author Dr. Devon Payne-Sturges.

As part of the review process, Project TENDR Health Disparities Workgroup members met with community and environmental justice leaders to identify possible areas of collaboration and opportunities for the research to support the work of the environmental justice organizations.

The review underscores the need for action at all levels of government to limit, lower, and eliminate existing pollutants and toxic chemicals in our environments in order to achieve environmental justice and health equity. It calls for stronger workplace protections and an end to siting chemical and plastics manufacturing facilities in/near communities of color and low-income communities.

In this 1.5 hour discussion hosted by CHE Alaska, Dr. Payne-Sturges and Dr. Tanya Khemet Taiwo, the lead authors of the report, will present their findings and recommendations. Dr. Kristie Ellickson will demonstrate a searchable database of studies on disparities in exposures and impacts. ACAT’s Environmental Health and Justice Director Vi Waghiyi will talk about neurodevelopmental disparities and health inequities specifically in Alaska Native children.

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