Environmental Justice, Cumulative Environmental Risk, and Health Among Low- and Middle-Income Childr

Environmental Justice, Cumulative Environmental Risk, and Health Among Low- and Middle-Income Childr

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Unformatted text preview: Environmental Justice, Cumulative Environmental R isk, and Health Among Low- and M iddle-Income Children in Upstate New York Gary W. Evans, PhD, and Lyscha A. Marcynyszyn, MA Environmental risks are not randomly distrib- uted in the population; instead, they are in- versely correlated to income.' Economically disadvantaged children live in noisier^ and more crowded homes'' and are exposed to more environmental toxins' than their middle-income counterparts. Housing quality is also inversely related to income.'*'^ Ethnic minorities also suffer disproportionate envi- ronmentil risk,^ and a fev/ studies reveal no income-environmental quality link.' Al- though poor children are substcintially more likely to confront singular environmental risks in their immediate environments, exposure to cumulative environmental risks may be a par- ticularly important and unstudied aspect of environmental justice and health. If the ecol- ogy of childhood poverty is characterized by the confluence of environmental risks, exami- nation of the health consequences of singular risks may underestimate the true environ- mental risk profile of low-income children. We examined how exposure to residential crowding, interior noise levels, and housing problems, singularly and in combination, re- lated to chronic physiological stress in a sam- ple of low- and middle-income children in rural upstate New York. METHODS Participants The income-to-needs ratio is a per capita index, adjusted annually for costs of living; a ratio equal to or less than 1 is the US Census Bureau's definition of poverty. One hundred fourteen third- throughfifth-grade children (mean age=9.1 years, SD= 1.10, 52% male) in this study lived in poverty (mean income-to- needs ratio=0.81). One hundred two third- throughfifth-grade middle-income (mean income-to-needs ratio=2.79) children (mean age=9.2 years, SD= 1.08, 52% male) also participated in the study. Sixty percent of the low-income sample lived with a single parent Objectives. We documented inequitable, cumulative environmental risk expo- sure and health between predominantly White low-income and middle-income children residing in rural areas in upstate New York. Methods. Cross-sectional data for 216 third- through fifth-grade children in- cluded overnight urinary neuroendocrine levels, noise levels, residential crowd- ing (people/room), and housing quality. Results. After control for income, maternal education, family structure, age, and gender, cumulative environmental risk exposure (0-3) (risk > 1 SD above the mean for each singular risk factor [0,1 ]) was substantially greater for low-income children. Cumulative environmental risk was positively correlated with elevated overnight epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol in the low-income sample but not in the middle-income sample....
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Environmental Justice, Cumulative Environmental Risk, and Health Among Low- and Middle-Income Childr

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