Environmental Justice and Risk Assessment: The Uneasy Relationship

Christopher H. Foreman, Jr
Chris Foreman
Christopher H. Foreman, Jr Former Brookings Expert, Former Professor and Director of the Social Policy Program - University of Maryland (College Park) School of Public Policy

January 1, 2000


Allegations that disproportionate environmental risks fall on low-income and minority communities promote calls for “environmental justice.” A related claim suggests that higher rates of some diseases stem from unequal risks. The empirical evidence supporting these claims remains weak, but uncertainty and controversy are unlikely to abate in the near future. The environmental justice movement has successfully mobilized its constituents, and captured the attention of policymakers, with a politically potent rhetoric of “risk and racism.” Ironically, the movement remains largely uninterested in, or even hostile to, formal risk assessment even while ostensibly calling for more of it.