The degradation of the environment through toxic pollution has a direct effect on human health. The world’s poor are most affected by this, and this is due to specific polluters. According to many researchers, low and middle-income countries are badly affected by environmental pollution. In higher-income countries, environmental pollution was one of the significant issues faced in the past, but the situation has changed.
Most of the activities leave behind some kind of waste in the environment. Household ordinary garbage is released, vehicles emit exhaust gases while in operation, and the manufacturing process creates hazardous and solid waste. Some waste contains a chemical that is dangerous for humans and the environment. Once these hazardous chemicals are found in the environment, people get exposed to them. Exposure occurs when either people have direct contact with the chemical or through another substance contaminated with the chemical.
The way people get exposed to chemicals is called exposure pathways. There are three primary exposure pathways: inhalation, ingestion, and skin contact. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, people can get exposed to these chemicals through water, soil or dust, air, and food. The primary vital pollutants are Aldrin, Cadmium, Chromium VI, DDT, Lead, Lindane.
Since 2009, Blacksmith Institute and UNIDO ( United Nations Industrial Development Organization) have been carrying out a program for toxic site identification to assist low and middle-income countries s to identify and to screen contaminated sites that are dangerous for human health. More than 3000 sites have been identified worldwide. Around 80 million poor people are at high risk of chronic diseases due to these sites. These toxic waste sites are a significant health problem. Many professionals are higher by Blacksmith Institute and from health and environmental departments at a national university. They are trained to identify and assess contaminated sites using Initial Site Screening.
Over the past 20 years, U.S. EPA has identified tens of thousands of sites in the U.S. These sites immediate action has to be taken to stop environmental pollution. According to the analysis done by them, around 200 million people would be affected.
Health implications of toxic chemicals –
Premature mortality has been a significant effect seen in low and middle-income countries due to environmental pollution. Contaminated water and poor quality of indoor is the primary cause of immortality in these countries. 94% of deaths due to environmental pollution now occur in low and middle-income countries. Premature deaths are death that occurs before the average age of death. In the U.S. average age of death is about 75 years.
According to recent research, thousands of pesticides and toxic chemicals have been released into the environment for the past many years. Proper safety testing has not been done for many of these chemicals. Most of the time, their effect on health is not known. Not much research has been done as far as these chemicals are concerned. Organic chemicals are one of the chemicals which is a significant source of concern. It stays in the environment for an extended period.
Chemical processes produce chemicals in the industry or lab and can consist of one substance or a mixture of many substances. They can be organic or inorganic. Organic consists of all the carbon-containing compounds. People exposed to these chemicals have a higher risk of obesity, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. These diseases are categorized as chronic diseases.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a risk for everyone who comes in contact with everyday plastics, and some groups of people are at higher risks of these chemicals. In a past study, it has been found that Latino and African American people and people with low income are exposed to these chemicals more. These are the chemicals that can interfere with endocrine systems. All these can lead to congenital disabilities, cancerous tumors, and other developmental disorders. It is found in many industrial and household products.
According to Dr. Mary B. Collins — of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, NY — “[A]lthough polluters are likely to disproportionately impact poor and nonwhite communities, these disproportionalities become even more pronounced when considering the smaller group of facilities who generate the majority of exposure risk.”
Reseaon for toxic exposure for poor –
Chemical manufacturing has increased in recent times, and people are getting exposed to toxic chemicals through this. Exposure to these chemicals can be seen chiefly among poor people worldwide as they mostly live around the area near the manufacturing plant. These residents live so close to hazardous chemicals, which puts them in danger of a catastrophic disaster. It also pollutes their water, soil, and air. In many areas, poor people do not have many housing options and have no choice but to live next to chemical hazards.
Jobs provided to poor people are also the reason for their toxic exposure. Most of the poor people across the world are do the job of waste picking, and they do not have any safety measures for the job. Waste picking means getting exposed to toxic chemicals directly. Poor people are mostly the ones who do not have any education or less education, and the scope for job opportunities is less for them, so they are left with the option of picking up waste. Most of the waste pickers do not have proper storage of garbage they collect, and most of the time, they keep it near their home, which increases the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals.
Poor people are also often engaged in hazardous livelihood activities such as lead-acid battery recycling, leather tanning, electronic/electric waste recycling, and artisanal gold mining. People working in these places do not work because of choice but because they do not have many opportunities. They very well know that they are exposing themselves and their family to toxic chemicals but still, they do as survival is a big question for them. Poverty is always associated with poor health and nutrition, which can increase the effect of toxic exposure.
Environmental injustices, such as frontline communities, are exposed to toxic chemicals more, and this is because of structural, economic, and social disparities that exist within and between societies. Moreover, poor people have less access to a healthcare facility. In a research, it is found that manufacturing plants high in pollution mostly set up their plants in poor areas because the rules related to the release of the population will be less than rich areas. Plants in these areas release more toxic chemicals, and their waste management is not up to the mark.
Cleaning up contaminated areas reduces environmental health risks and promotes economic growth. Most of the contaminated sites are in more impoverished neighborhoods. According to WHO, 98% of adults and 99% of children are affected by toxic chemicals, mostly lead in poor and middle-income countries. Healthier environments lead to healthier children, families, and workers, and all of them can be productive remember of society. Toxic clean-up can lead to the growth and development of both humans and the economy.
There are numerous practical and affordable solutions, and technologies are there to deal with toxic chemicals and contaminated sites. In low- and middle-income countries, where toxic exposure is more world leaders should come together and help these countries with solutions to the exposure.