Flint Youth Leaders Step Up to Protect Their Community’s Air Quality

May 21, 2024 | Catch the Green Tea, Policy Statements | 0 comments

In the spring of 2024, a group of Flint African American middle, high school, and college students decided to take action to address the poor air quality in their community. Inspired by the work of local environmental justice advocates, these young leaders banded together to research and comment on proposed changes to the state’s air toxics screening levels.

The Next Generation of EJ Leaders

The students are part of Young, Gifted & Green’s Flint Youth Environmental Justice (EJ) Council and the Flint Public Health Youth Academy, ranging in age from 12 to 20, met frequently to learn about the role of EGLE’s Air Quality Division and the importance of public participation in the regulatory process. The young leaders were horrified (but not shocked) to discover that Flint’s historically Black and low-income neighborhoods, and experience some of the highest levels of air pollution in the state, putting their health and wellbeing at serious risk.

“While setting screening levels is a critical step towards safeguarding public health, the rationale behind these specific limits needs to be clearly communicated and based on a thorough understanding of the health risks associated with each chemical.”

Howard University
Flint Public Health Youth Academy
Young, Gifted & Green Youth EJ Council

The History of Legacy Pollution in Flint, Michigan

Growing up in Flint, youth are sadly accustomed to dealing with environmental issues ranging from the water crisis to the high rates of asthma. Learning about how the state sets air quality standards, and how Black communities are so disproportionately impacted, this talented group of change agents felt the need to speak up and demand change.

“Even though I am only 14, I learned about how people in [position] can have a huge influence on my everyday life. As a lifelong resident of the City of Flint and a diagnosed asthmatic, I’ve learned the importance of how the environment affects my life and how important it is to have a safe environment.”

Clarence Ruffin II
Flint Cultural Center Academy
Young, Gifted & Green Flint Youth EJ Council Member

Leading the EJ Movement with Science

The group pored over the technical documents outlining EGLE’s proposed changes to screening levels for two chemicals – diglycol amine and dimethyl methyl benzenediamine. They analyzed the potential health impacts, researched alternative standards used in other states, and drafted detailed public comments to submit before the deadline. While it was challenging to understand all the scientific terminology and regulatory speak, the Flint Youth EJ Council Members worked together masterfully to make sure their comments were clear, substantive, and impossible for EGLE to ignore. Flint youth are tired of being treated like second-class citizens, with their health and safety put at risk. EGLE has a responsibility to prioritize environmental justice, and our youngest leaders representing both Gen Alpha and GenZ are going to keep showing up and taking up spaces demanding there say in decision-making processes.

“While the proposed limit for Diglycol Amine is 9 micrograms per cubic meter over an 8-hour period, it’s very important to consider the health risks from long-term exposure, including irritation to the respiratory system, eyes, and skin. I urge the Air Quality Division to provide detailed research and analysis to justify this screening level and focus on the chronic effects of exposure and the protection of vulnerable groups.”

Kameron Motley
Sophomore Morehouse College
Flint Public Health Youth Academy
Young, Gifted & Green Youth EJ Council

When it comes to the dangers of ‘diglycol amine’, I’ve done my homework on this dangerous chemical compound. Someone like me that already suffers from seasonal allergies and bad asthma attacks in the spring needs to never encounter this.”

Clarissa Ruffin
Flint Cultural Center Academy
Young, Gifted & Green Youth EJ Council

Our Flint youth leaders are dedicated to keep learning, organizing, and holding their leaders and agencies accountable. Our lungs, and the lungs of every child in Flint, depend on it.

Read all the public comment statements from our Flint Youth EJ Council Members here.

Meet our 2024 Flint Youth EJ Council Members!


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