Environmental victims: environmental injustice issues that threaten the health of children living in poverty

Rev Environ Health. 2011;26(3):141-7. doi: 10.1515/reveh.2011.021.


Children living in poverty are disproportionately at risk from and affected by environmental hazards. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 13 million children in America live in poverty. Thus, not only are millions of children living in poverty but are also living in environments that are hazardous to their health. Impoverished children are more likely to live in environments with heavily polluting industries, hazardous waste sites, contaminated water and soil, in old housing with deteriorating lead-based paint, in areas with limited access to healthy food, and more. Poor children residing in these toxic environments are either at risk or suffer from a myriad of health disparities, such as asthma, cancer, lead poisoning, obesity, and hyperactivity. This unfortunate reality is better known as environmental injustice. Environmental injustice recognizes that economically disadvantaged groups are adversely affected by environmental hazards more than other groups. To remedy this dilemma, environmental justice seeks to address these unfair burdens of environmental health hazards on poor communities. The purpose of this article is to (a) examine the environmental living conditions of children living in poverty, (b) examine the environmental health disparities of children living in poverty, (c) discuss environmental justice legislation, (d) describe government initiatives to improve environmental health, and (e) propose recommendations that executes measures to protect the health of children.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Health / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Poverty*
  • Social Justice*
  • United States