Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Christina H. Fuller Sc.D.

Second Advisor

Kim R. White Ph.D.

Abstract

Background and Purpose

Low socioeconomic status (SES) populations as well as minorities are often exposed to a disproportionate number of hazardous chemical including hydrogen fluoride, benzene and formaldehyde (Bullard, 2008). The sources of these hazards may include noxious land uses such as incinerators and landfills, Superfund sites, Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) facilities, sewer and water treatment plants, and other locally unwanted land uses (Choi, Shim, Kaye, & Ryan, 2006). The disproportionate burden often results in increased exposure to harmful environmental conditions for affected communities (Wilson et al., 2014). The objectives of this study are to evaluate the relevance of demographic characteristics to (1) TRI facility location, (2) TRI chemical emissions, and (3) incidence and resolution of facility complaints.

Methods

The study area is the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), designated by the United States Office of Management and Budget is comprised of 20 counties. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess the relative importance of race and socioeconomic variables in predicting whether a TRI facility was located in a census tract. We applied multiple regression models to examine the association between amount of air toxics released from TRI facilities in the census tract (dependent variable), the number of emissions from TRI facilities in the census tract and the amount of chemicals released per emission and socio-demographic variables at the census tract level. Additionally, multivariate ordinal logistic regression was used to evaluate the association between the number of complaints to toxic chemicals and time to resolution of complaints and the covariates (SES and race/ethnicity) at the census tract level.

Results

In multivariate models the odds ratio for the presence of a TRI facility is 0.89 (p=0.002) for each 1% increase of females with a college degree and 2.4 (p

Discussion and Conclusion

We found evidence of racial and socio-demographic disparities in the burden of TRI facilities and chemical emissions in the Atlanta MSA. We observed a trend for toxic chemicals emitted suggesting that more blacks and Hispanics were burdened by and potentially exposed to TRI facilities than were Whites. There was only one predictor, percentage of females with a college degree, where we observed an inverse and statistically significant association with the amount of chemical emissions in pounds. We also found evidence that of potential differences in regulation processes of TRI facilities. Overall, results indicate that race/ethnicity and socioeconomic composition play a role in TRI facility siting and TRI facility emissions indicating burden disparities for low-SES populations as well as non-Whites in the Atlanta MSA. These results are similar to results presented in the environmental justice literature.

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