Health Equity Office highlighted during Environmental Awareness Month

September 13, 2022

Health Equity Office highlighted during Environmental Awareness Month

MOBILE, Ala. — September represents Environmental Awareness Month, with the goal of promoting the protection and conservation of our natural environment. The Mobile County Health Department’s Health Equity Office would like to promote and pursue a vision for environmental justice.

Environmental justice will only be achieved when all people, irrespective of race, income, or national origin, are afforded the same protection from environmental hazards and equitable distribution of environmental benefits. In other words, not only will all communities be protected from water contamination and air pollution, but their neighborhoods will have public green spaces and clean streets. This vision for environmental justice can only be achieved when low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, places where environmental challenges can be the most critical, are made a part of the decision-making process.

Essential to environmental justice is protecting our water resources and ensuring access to clean water. Water contamination causes a disproportionate, negative impact on communities of color and low-income counties. Vulnerable communities often bear the adverse impact caused by marine litter and plastics pollution. Litter discarded on streets and parking lots can wash down storm drains straight into our creeks, streams, and rivers. This can pose a risk to the health and livelihoods of communities who rely on seafood for their diet and as a source of income.

Communities close to industrial factories also face a threat to their waterways as contaminated runoff and excess pollution seeps into their lakes, rivers, and streams. Finally, lead contamination from drinking water pipes can pose risks for childhood development and behavior.

Underlying these threats to clean water are systemic factors such as redlining, exclusionary zoning practices, and lack of representation of people of color in local governments. Africatown serves as a poignant example of how systemic factors can collide to threaten environmental justice. Part of Africatown’s history is one of environmental racism, in which industrial manufactures and chemical refineries heavily polluted the local environment with little regard for the historic Black community. The Africatown community is fighting back against environmental racism and systemic neglect to protect the health and wellness of its residents.

The following organizations our working in our community to protect Alabama’s natural environment and healthy communities:
• Africatown C.H.E.S.S. (Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe, and Sustainable Community) is working towards preserving the culture and heritage of Africatown.
• Mobile Baykeeper works to protect the Mobile Bay Watershed. They are currently working towards coal ash removal at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry.
• Keep Mobile Beautiful empowers individuals to clean up their communities and educates communities about recycling.

The Health Equity Office is supporting the work of cleaning up our communities by participating in the Annual Alabama Coastal Cleanup and hosting our own clean-up site in Mount Vernon on Saturday, September 17. We challenge MCHD-Family Health staff to volunteer at an event near you.