The Ronson site is marked by both vapor intrusion, primarily of the chemical Trichloroethylene (TCE), and groundwater contamination. The most relevant environmental factors with regards to the site are National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) cancer risk and NATA respiratory hazard index. This is because understanding the overall health effects and toxin levels in terms of air pollution in the area can put into context the extent of environmental racism in the Ironbound, and thus in the Ronson site. This data was obtained through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice (EJ) Screen software. This software uses the environmental risks and demographic statistics of a specific area and compares those factors at the state, regional, and national level. Using the EJ Screen Software, a one mile buffer was created around the site. It showed that the people residing in the area are more affected than the average person in the state, region and country by these two environmental factors.
The first factor that will be analyzed is the NATA respiratory hazard index. The hazard index is the calculation of each hazard index’s “ratio of exposure concentration in the air to the health-based reference concentration set by EPA”.1 All 20,192 people included in the buffer are in high percentile groups in both categories, but are the highest in the NATA respiratory hazard index (91 state percentile, 87 region percentile, and 93 national percentile). This data, as defined by the hazard index, suggests that there are more toxins in the air in this particular area that is allowed by the EPA. This can be deduced to be an effect of the overwhelming amount of industry surrounding the Ironbound, and how the effects on the environment of each facility is calculated individually as opposed to cumulatively.
The second environmental indicator being analyzed is the NATA cancer risk in the Ronson site’s area. The NATA cancer risk is defined as the “Lifetime cancer risk from inhalation of air toxics”.2 The NATA respiratory hazard index affects the outcome of the NATA cancer risk of the people in the area. This cancer risk in the area was calculated to be in the 85 state percentile, 81 region percentile, and 85 national percentile. It should come at no surprise that because there is a higher amount of toxins in the air, these same air toxins are also increasing the risk of cancer of the people living there.
For access to the environmental and demographic data in these graphs, please click on the link below:
When trying to understand the possible factors that may have led to the Ronson site analyzing the demographic indicators of the area is key. The site is mostly populated by minority groups, which makeup 70% of the population. Consequentially, around 40% of that population is unable to speak English proficiently. This can be deduced to be an effect of the undocumented status of the majority of the population in the Ironbound.3 These factors increase the likelihood that these populations will be marginalized at some point, especially when recalling the extensive influence that industries have had historically in Newark. These factors brought on by race are compounded by class where 51% of the population are in low-income households. It is typically the members of these communities that are “disenfranchised from most major societal institutions.”4 This phenomenon of the disenfranchisement of these minority, low-income communities may be an explanation for why the government failed in the proper cleanup of the site. The challenges that the majority of the people in the Ironbound go through allow for some speculation as to why these two-family homes were built in such a polluted urban environment.
- “Glossary of EJSCREEN Terms.” EPA. August 02, 2017.
- “Our Community.” ICC
- Cole, Luke W., and Sheila R. Foster. From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement. Page 33.