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Environmental equity in a sunbelt city: the spatial distribution of toxic hazards in Phoenix, Arizona

Citation: Global Environmental Change Part B: Environmental Hazards, 2000, 2, 1, 11-24

This paper examines the spatial distributions of industrial facilities emitting toxic substances in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan region. The analysis relies on geographic information system mapping of hazardous facilities listed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) to assess the spatial distribution of polluting industries in relation to the demographic composition of host neighborhoods. The research addresses four questions: (1) Are there differences between the socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods with and without polluting industrial facilities? (2) Is there a relationship between the volume of toxic chemicals released from industrial facilities and the socioeconomic characteristics of host neighborhoods? (3) Is there a relationship between the toxicity of the chemicals released from industrial facilities and the socioeconomic characteristics of those living in proximity? (4) Do alternative methods for determining the distribution of potentially affected populations produce different observed patterns of environmental inequities? The study concludes that there is a clear pattern of environmental inequity in Phoenix based on the location and volume of emissions of TRI facilities. Analysis of the toxicity of emissions found a more equal distribution of risk, reflecting the suburbanization of high-technology industries into predominantly white middle-class communities.

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