Race, wealth, and solid waste facilities in North Carolina

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Sep;115(9):1344-50. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10161.


Background: Concern has been expressed in North Carolina that solid waste facilities may be disproportionately located in poor communities and in communities of color, that this represents an environmental injustice, and that solid waste facilities negatively impact the health of host communities.

Objective: Our goal in this study was to conduct a statewide analysis of the location of solid waste facilities in relation to community race and wealth.

Methods: We used census block groups to obtain racial and economic characteristics, and information on solid waste facilities was abstracted from solid waste facility permit records. We used logistic regression to compute prevalence odds ratios for 2003, and Cox regression to compute hazard ratios of facilities issued permits between 1990 and 2003.

Results: The adjusted prevalence odds of a solid waste facility was 2.8 times greater in block groups with > or = 50% people of color compared with block groups with < 10% people of color, and 1.5 times greater in block groups with median house values < 60,000 dollars compared with block groups with median house values > or = 100,000 dollars. Among block groups that did not have a previously permitted solid waste facility, the adjusted hazard of a new permitted facility was 2.7 times higher in block groups with > or = 50% people of color compared with block groups with < 10% people of color.

Conclusion: Solid waste facilities present numerous public health concerns. In North Carolina solid waste facilities are disproportionately located in communities of color and low wealth. In the absence of action to promote environmental justice, the continued need for new facilities could exacerbate this environmental injustice.

Keywords: environmental health; environmental justice; solid waste.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Health
  • Humans
  • North Carolina
  • Racial Groups*
  • Refuse Disposal*
  • Social Justice*
  • Socioeconomic Factors