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At UNC School of Public Health

Every day, everywhere, people’s actions change the environment and the lives of those in the surrounding area. Increasingly, people realize that our environment affects our health. People are also realizing that some environmental problems are very complex, like air pollution, water pollution and hazardous waste. They are complex because they consist of many inter-related factors.

The Exchange Project unites faculty and staff at the UNC School of Public Health with researchers, government officials, several community-based organizations, and attorneys to promote environmental health. The Exchange Project developed from a 5-year NIEHS educational grant focused on the ethical, legal and social implications of environmental health research in North Carolina (read more about us…).

Exchange Project is a vehicle for education and dialogue. To increase the dialogue, we have documented the stories of several North Carolina communities facing environmental hazards. We have developed short, dramatic skits that communities and students can perform to help them explore an issue in a “real-life” context. We have gained permission to show brief film clips from both Hollywood movies and documentaries. For both the skits and the film clips, we provide questions for discussion afterward. We are also investigating how researchers, government officials, community members, and attorneys work on improving environmental health problems. We plan to publish results from this continuing investigation.

All of this is to promote environmental health through learning and building the dialogue for action.

How can this website help you?

Teachers can use this website to complement the standard course of study for the environmental sciences curriculum in North Carolina. Your students can learn about environmental health issues and the “real-life” impact in communities by using this website in class or for homework. Learn more….

Students will find easy-to-read summaries about research on environmental issues along with the stories of real people trying to decrease environmental health hazards. Learn more….

Community Organizers and Political Activists can find materials and activities to help educate and mobilize a community group that may need to respond to an environmental concern. Learn more….

Professionals working on environmental health issues (such as researchers, government officials, and attorneys) can learn about the perspective of others living with and working on these issues. Learn more….

Why should we be concerned about environmental justice?

Although the environment in our country may be cleaner than at some of the worst periods in our past history, researchers who study trends in the public’s health have been documenting differences in the health status of people of different races and economic status. Why is it that White people are healthier than African Americans? Why are people with more education healthier than those with less education?

Part of it has to do with the physical world in which we live. Research is documenting that communities of color and communities of lower income receive a disproportionate share of the waste we produce in our modern world.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined an environmental justice goal for all communities and persons in our nation – it is the “fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” EPA believes the goal is achieved only when “everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” Therefore, part of our dialogue must be about the need for justice in how we plan and develop our environment, how we manage waste from agriculture and production, and how we promote healthy environments for all.

Soon you will be able to watch a short video on Environmental Justice.


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