Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Cumulative Environmental Health Impacts in California: Evidence From a Statewide Environmental Justice Screening Tool (CalEnviroScreen 1.1)

Am J Public Health. 2015 Nov;105(11):2341-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302643. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


Objectives: We used an environmental justice screening tool (CalEnviroScreen 1.1) to compare the distribution of environmental hazards and vulnerable populations across California communities.

Methods: CalEnviroScreen 1.1 combines 17 indicators created from 2004 to 2013 publicly available data into a relative cumulative impact score. We compared cumulative impact scores across California zip codes on the basis of their location, urban or rural character, and racial/ethnic makeup. We used a concentration index to evaluate which indicators were most unequally distributed with respect to race/ethnicity and poverty.

Results: The unadjusted odds of living in one of the 10% most affected zip codes were 6.2, 5.8, 1.9, 1.8, and 1.6 times greater for Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and other or multiracial individuals, respectively, than for non-Hispanic Whites. Environmental hazards were more regressively distributed with respect to race/ethnicity than poverty, with pesticide use and toxic chemical releases being the most unequal.

Conclusions: Environmental health hazards disproportionately burden communities of color in California. Efforts to reduce disparities in pollution burden can use simple screening tools to prioritize areas for action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • California
  • Environment
  • Environmental Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hazardous Substances / analysis
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Small-Area Analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data*


  • Hazardous Substances
  • Pesticides