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Environmental Issues in Detroit | The Kerner Report 50 Years Later

This is a chapter from the Kerner Report: 50 Years Later, written collaboratively by 2018 Humanity in Action Fellows in Detroit. 


Environmental justice in Detroit can’t be left out of the conversation when talking about its future. Detroit is home to the most polluted zip code in the state, 48217, in Southwest Detroit--home to predominantly low-income people of color.1 Soil was found heavily contaminated with lead and arsenic, contributors to this pollution include 8 oil refineries, 3 factories that produce steel, 5 asphalt plants, and 1 hazardous waste collection site.2 The city as a whole suffers from 29% higher asthma rates than the rest of Michigan. But within the city, the impact of environmental racism is seen more starkly: out of 10,000 black Detroiters, 49.3 were hospitalized for asthma related attacks, while only 29.6 out of 10,000 white Detroiters would be hospitalized for the same reason in 2013.3 As the city continues to grow and heal since its bankruptcy, public officials must be held accountable for fostering job creation and industry building that does not poison minority families.



1. https://www.pbs.org/video/southwest-detroit-pollution-w4mzd2/

2. https://greatlakesenvironmentaljustice.wordpress.com/southwest-detroit/health-exposure/

3. https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/Detroit-AsthmaBurden_516668_7.pdf

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HIA Program:

United-states United States 2018


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