Deceptive Science

The problem with risk assessment

By Peter Montague 

When local authorities want to expand a highway, for example, through a low-income neighborhood, to forestall local opposition they conduct research known as a "risk assessment." First, they list a few of the pollutants found in the air near highways. Then they list a few of the ways those pollutants harm humans. Next they estimate how much the "most exposed" person will breathe. And finally, they estimate how much harm the pollution will do to that most exposed individual. Despite this work, they often decide to allow the development because, although their risk assessment finds that harm is likely, the harm is deemed "acceptable."

Power, Privilege and Participation

Meeting the challenge of equal research alliances

power, privilege and participation Over the past decade a growing number of organizations engaged in environmental justice struggles have recognized the need to bolster their capacity to investigate links between environmental exposures and health problems. In the face of the enormous scientific resources of polluters (and in some cases government agencies), it is increasingly difficult to make the claim that disproportionate environmental exposures in communities of color are linked to racial disparities in health. Corporations and government agencies, with the backing of well-paid scientists, often claim there is no proof. Consequently, many community-based organizations have been backed into a corner of having to defend our position that environmental racism does indeed exist. As a result, a growing number of these organizations are seeking to access the resources of academic institutions to strengthen our struggles for justice.

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