#PLACEMATTERS: Chemically Dangerous Zones Disproportionately Impact Minorities and the Poor

In a new report, the Environmental Justice and Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform examines the link between chemical disaster vulnerability zones and the demographics of the communities they affect. Communities that are vulnerable to the effects of chemical facilities are largely Black and Latino and have higher rates of poverty. This study evaluates how disadvantaged communities are affected within fenceline zones (areas with the highest danger from chemical accidents) and vulnerability zones (areas that are still likely to be affected by chemical accidents, but less than fence line zones).


Key findings of the study are as follows:

  • of the 134 million Americans who live in chemical danger zones, the number of Black and Latinos who reside there are disproportionately greater
  • 75% more Black residents and 60% more Latino residents live in fenceline zones
  • companies are not required to determine or account for whether they need the chemicals they use and store
  • home values in fenceline zones are 33% lower than the values of homes outside of these zones
  • there are 46% more residents in fenceline zones without a high school diploma than in the rest of the nation
  • the poverty rates within fenceline zones are 50% higher than for the entire United States

The report indicates the following suggested recommendations:

  • provide safer and more secure alternatives
  • enact more effective laws and regulations
  • promote informed and engaged workers and communities
  • take action now

Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School