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Your Environment. Your Health.

Q&A, EJ Connections, and Comments

Addressing Racism As a Public Health Issue Through the Lens of Environmental Health Disparities and Environmental Justice: From Problems to Solutions


Naeema Muhammad, Sherry Baron, Deysi Flores, Omega Wilson, Brenda Wilson, Ayo Wilson, Crystal Cavalier-Keck, Jason Keck

Question: Will any others be adopting the "Negotiate With the Air" phrase from Naeema Muhammad?

"The air is stinking all the time. They can't just walk outside when they want to. They feel like they have to negotiate with the air. They get up in the morning and say i'll crack my door just a little to see whether or not it's stinking outside. If it's not stinking, then I rush out to do what I have to do so I can get back in the house before the odor comes because when the odor comes you do not want to be outside."

This phrase and description resonate with my daily experience, although for me, the odor is from aggressive fragrances and 'deodorizers'. Substances that are intentionally emitted to cover up industrial odors and discharged from neighbors' laundry chemicals.


  • Naeema Muhammad: "Yes! This is a popular phrase used very often by the people living near these animals"
  • Sherry Baron: "I appreciate the spirit of her idea of “negotiating with the air’. I think for the work we do, related to household cleaning product exposures, the issues are a bit different. The negotiation would more likely be with the clients who choose the cleaning product, encouraging them to buy products that contain fewer toxic chemicals and to use cleaning practices that lead to lower levels of contamination. The focus of much of our training with cleaner is exactly on this topic of negotiating and learning how to speak up and make different choices."
  • Crystal Cavalier-Keck and Jason Keck: "We thought about it I'm not sure if we will use that language precisely "negotiate with the air". We always say we need to protect the air, like all other elements."

Robert Bullard and Nancy Krieger, Pamela Miller, Vi Waghiyi

Question: The Green New Deal really hurt President Carter's Presidency and now it’s affecting President Biden. Why is this? Racism?


  • Robert Bullard: "My best answer to this question is a quote by W.E.B. Dubois, “Either the United States will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy the United States." -- W.E.B. DuBois "Niagara Movement Speech," 1905. I think it’s ignorance and the fossil fuel industry and their lobbyists more so than racism that act as powerful forces hindering advancing environment and climate justice and protecting public health. The was true during President Carter’s administration and is still the case hindering the Biden administration."
  • Nancy Krieger: "Thanks, but I am not the right person to provide a scholarly response to this question – I provide a very limited reply, below – Prof. N. Krieger KRIEGER REPLY: I appreciate this question, and believe the best persons to answer it would be scholars with expertise jointly on environmental racism and energy policies, which is not my area of expertise. While evidence exists regarding the myriad ways the petrochemical industry contributes to environmental racism, the economic interests at stake in the transition away from a fossil fuel to a green economy suggest that it is the combination of these larger economic interests and their links to structural racism must both be considered."
  • Pamela Miller & Vi Waghiyi: "This is a very complex question and not easily answered in an email. Certainly racism/environmental racism is an important underlying factor for opposition in this country to the “Green New Deal” and the real reforms that are necessary to lift up, protect our communities, and provide real solutions. This is also true of the attack on voting rights. It is the same system of oppression and racism. There is a vested interest in maintaining a system of white supremacy and corporate power. This requires systemic change and is what we are fighting for."

EJ Connections

Attendee Melanie Meade

"I live in Clairton, Pennsylvania where our elected officials fail to address the harm to health and continually advise community to move if they don't like the air, water and food pollution. Please let's connect so that I may be able to discuss a potential study for my community to realize these truths and advocate for greener industry and better legislators with better legislation."

"I am interested in learning how I can create a grass roots organization welcoming Asians interested in the environmental harms to health we face please connect with me. I am fluent in Spanish and believe we must all unite to create sustainable legislation to break the legs of industry! hope to hear from you."

Attendee Nate Burden

"Also important is the quality-of-care systems in disparaged areas. This definitely can be a major social determinant in health equity outcomes for a disparage or racial community. In addition, many times, diet (diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity) and behavioral activities also need to be addressed in relationship to diet, allergens, smoking, vaping, etc. Precision medicine seems only to be in high- and middle-income communities. Precision medicine is a new medical approach that is evolving. This is and can be racism triggered as a social determinant. Also, with programs that do health risk awareness, many times, there is no intrinsic empowerment for that low-income community to address and quantifiably reduce their health risk (radon gas, lead-base paint, etc.) I would be glad to help. Nate Burden. I am located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."

"I work with many NGOs in Pittsburgh and PA EJ department. I am a nuclear physicist that went to Carnegie Mellon University. I have done over 100 public webinars on radon and other health issues to Black and Hispanic communities. I would be glad to participate."

"We are actually doing radon testing and radon mitigations at no cost to low-income communities. MOVES for Radon EJ in PA Nate Burden."

Attendee Kearston Ingraham

"Hi Nate- I would welcome the opportunity to discuss radon levels as well as lung cancer incidence and mortality rates. I will be happy to reach out to you to discuss further." Kearston Ingraham, M.P.H. (She/Her)

"Thank you for this insightful and powerful conference! Please let us know how we can help address environmental justice issues in our communities."

EJ Comments, Recommendations, and Suggestions

Anonymous Attendee

"It would be great to get both Dr. Krieger and Dr. Bullard's presentations (e.g., the maps) before congress!"

Attendee Latorial Faison

"Will there be anyone speaking today about technology and its impact on these communities, particulary 5G and other types of technology and cellular towers and equipment in neighborhoods for people of color and those in poverty?" - Latorial Faison

Attendee D’Ann Williams

"Yes Dr. Lewis, we also need political will and funding to change the harmful systems and clean up the existing damage to the environment and the communities that are affected." - D'Ann Williams

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