Seattle Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis now available

We are pleased to announce that the Duwamish Valley Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis: Seattle, Washington researched and written by JHA’s Executive Director, Linn Gould and managed by BJ Cummings of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition was released today.

A Brief Summary of the Duwamish Valley Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis in Seattle, Washington 

South Seattle’s Duwamish Valley has long been referred to as a community with environmental injustices– a community with disproportionately high environmental health burdens and risks and fewer positive environmental benefits than the rest of Seattle – but limited evidence has been available to date to validate or quantify this characterization.  Just Health Action and the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (DRCC) received an Environmental Justice (EJ) Research grant from EPA to conduct a Cumulative Health Impacts Analysis to document and quantify the Duwamish Valley’s environmental health status relative to other areas of Seattle.  Cumulative impacts are defined as: “any exposures, public health or environmental effects from the combined emissions and discharges, in a geographic area, including environmental pollution, from all sources, whether single or multimedia, routinely, accidently, or otherwise released

In accordance with California EPA’s cumulative impacts ranking methodology, a total of 15 indicators in 5 different categories: 1. Socioeconomic factors; 2. Sensitive populations; 3. Environmental exposures; 4. Environmental effects; and 5. Public health effects were input into a formula to calculate cumulative heath impact scores for ten Seattle ZIP codes.  From an environmental exposures perspective, Beacon Hill/Georgetown/South Park (ZIP code 98108) had the highest ranking for air pollution and exposure to confirmed and suspected contaminated sites.  This area also had one of the worst rankings in the city for environmental effects – access to a healthy built environment.  Cumulatively, these high negative environmental scores combined with a high score for social vulnerabilities (socioeconomic factors and sensitive populations) and a medium score for public health effects resulted in the highest cumulative impact score of 106 (based on a range of 6 to 120) in Seattle.  The second highest cumulative ranking score was 66. The results of this cumulative analysis provide justification for referring to this ZIP code as an area with Environmental Justice concerns.

Additional evidence, including at the larger Duwamish watershed scale and at the smaller census tract scale, reinforce these cumulative findings, and further suggests that the ZIP code level analysis may obscure even greater disparities in the riverside communities of South Park and Georgetown.  In comparing residents of the Duwamish Valley to King County, DV residents were more likely to live in poverty, be foreign born, not attend high school, have no health insurance, no leisure time activity, have low birth weight babies, and more likely to be sick.  Georgetown and South Park residents have a 13 year deficit in life expectancy compared to wealthier parts of Seattle.

All people deserve the opportunity to live up to their full potential.  In light of the cumulative findings, the Duwamish Valley merits attention from decision makers regarding health protective/proactive environmental regulations, policies, practices, and actions.

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