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Get to know your neighborhood

Get to know your neighborhood

February 26, 2013

Some U.S. neighborhoods are the victims of industrial air, water and soil pollution – is yours? Toxic chemicals, such as lead, dioxin, and trichloroethylene, produced by smelters, mines, battery-recycling plants, refineries, waste incinerators and chemical factories can stick to sediment in your yards and neighboring grounds for years.

Neighborhoods as far as two miles away from industrial sites can still experience the effects of toxic fall-out – when air pollutants invisibly rain down on a neighborhood from nearby industrial plants. These chemicals sink into the soil and then get tracked indoors or picked up by children and pets.

Homes may also be located near or above hazardous waste sites, which may leach pollutants into soil and water. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates there are are 450,000 to 1 million hazardous waste sites scattered across the nation. More than 1,500 have been recognized as serious threats to human health and the EPA estimates that one in four Americans, including ten million children under the age of 12, live within four miles of one of these heavily polluted sites. The health effects of living near one of these sites are numerable and extend to the womb: Results of an 11-year study found that pregnant mothers living near landfill sites with hazardous waste have a seven percent higher risk of giving birth to a child with congenital defects.

Do you know what’s near you?

Visit the EPA’s “Search Your Neighborhood” tool for Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) information – a publicly available EPA database that contains detailed information on toxic chemical releases and other waste management activities reported annually by certain industry groups as well as federal facilities. The goal of TRI is to empower citizens, through information, to hold companies and local governments accountable in terms of how toxic chemicals are managed.

Getting to know your neighborhood will help you know if you have any specific health risks you need to be aware of. Take charge of your health by being informed and discussing any concerns with your healthcare provider.