Panel Paper: Perceptions of Environmental Health Risks Among Residents in the “Toxic Doughnut”: Opportunities for Risk Screening and Community Mobilization

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Johnson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Eric Hall, The Environmental Protection Agency

Background: Surrounded by landfills, and toxic and hazardous facilities, Altgeld Gardens is located in a “toxic doughnut”. With high rates of environmentally-related conditions, residents have called for a community-based environmental health assessment to improve overall health in their community. The purpose of this study was to investigate the attitudes and beliefs of environmental health risks of Altgeld’s residents which would assist community organizing efforts and provide the groundwork for a community-based environmental health assessment.

Methods: A questionnaire was designed and administered to 42 Altgeld residents who also participated in focus groups to assess their perceptions of environmental health risks.

Results: All participants were Altgeld residents for at least two years and were fairly representative of the broader community. Physical and social hazards were primarily identified as posing risks to participants’ family and the broader community. Physical hazards included the dumping of hazardous waste and landfills; social hazards were crime and drugs.

Conclusions: These findings have been useful in community organizing efforts and in program planning for local community-based organizations and public health agencies. The results have also been used to prioritize health and environmental risk issues impacting the community.