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HHS Announces New Office of Environmental Justice

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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is establishing an Office of Environmental Justice to address environmental health issues among “disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations on the front lines of pollution” and other climate impacts , the Biden administration announced on Tuesday.

Why is it important: Environmental justice has been a priority for the administration. The decision to address climate and now environmental justice at HHS shows how the subject goes beyond traditional environmental and resource agencies.

Details: The new HHS office will form and implement a department-wide strategy on environmental justice and health, and lead initiatives that integrate environmental justice into the agency’s mission to improve health outcomes for high-risk communities.

What they say : “The truth is that many communities across our country — especially low-income communities and communities of color — continue to bear the brunt of pollution from industrial development, poor land use decisions, transportation and trade corridors,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. in a report.

  • “Meeting the needs of these communities requires our focused attention.”

The big picture: A September poll found that people of color are much less likely than white Americans to enjoy good air quality or tap water.

  • They are also less likely to have enough trees or green space in their communities, and remain more likely to experience noise pollution and litter.
  • People of color, especially black Americans, are disproportionately affected by environmental risks — and more likely to die from environmental causes.
  • As a result, the growing number of extreme weather incidents has prompted calls for better public health mapping to identify and help those most at risk from environmental disasters.

Go further: Race and Environment in America