Black Millennials 4 Flint’s EPA Ozone Rule Statement

Apr 21, 2022 | BM4F Spotlights, Uncategorized, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

April 21, 2022

Washington, DC–Black Millennials 4 Flint is a national grassroots and environmental justice organization founded by Black and Latinx millennials with a mission to empower communities to take action and advocate against the crisis of lead exposure specifically in African American & Latinx communities. Our core values are: 1. Community 2. Education 3. Black & Latinx Lives 4. Equity 5. A #LeadFreeUSA.  Our remarks today are to best inform the EPA’s proposed Good Neighbor Plan to address ozone pollution through the lens of environmental justice and the social determinants of health. We are speaking from a very real example happening in one of our target states, Tennessee, particularly in frontline communities in Memphis regarding significant challenges regarding coal ash and the threat to public health including cumulative body burden. 

In late 2021, The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) received the final regulatory approval from the TN Department of Environment and Conservation it needed to remove tons of coal ash from ponds in Southwest Memphis and transport them along Shelby Drive (located in majority African American community) to a landfill in Southeast Memphis (also a majority African American and Latino community). TVA’s plan is to bury the ash in lined pits to prevent leaching into the ground putting approximately 72,000 Memphis residents in significant danger. The years-long removal process and the transportation route through predominantly African American and Latino neighborhoods could prove to be another hit to Memphis’ relentless fight against environmental justice. 

This hazardous transport and dumping of toxic metals present in the ash, such as arsenic, mercury, chromium (including the highly toxic and carcinogenic chromium VI), lead, uranium, copper, manganese and others puts already vulnerable frontline communities in even greater risk of other health risk.  Breathing in high levels of arsenic can cause a sore throat and irritated lungs. Swallowing high levels of arsenic can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness and cramping, skin rashes, and other problems. Additionally, exposure to the harsh heavy metals produced from coal ash causes extreme maternal and reproductive health issues.  Exposure from lead for example, causes low birth weight, stillbirths and maternal death.  The US has the highest maternal mortality rate among industrialized countries. Since 2000, the maternal mortality rate has risen nearly 60%, making it worse now than it was decades earlier. More than half of these deaths are preventable and a healthier environment with clean air is a key indicator for saving mothers and babies. 

Now more than ever, it is critical to keep environmental rules in place that protect communities from the adverse health impacts of toxic pollution. It is also imperative that our government holds toxic polluters accountable for the impacts on human beings and truly be “good neighbors”.

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