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Hastings Center Report

In the Name of Racial Justice: Why Bioethics Should Care about Environmental Toxins

Abstract: Facilities that emit hazardous toxins, such as toxic landfills, oil refineries, and chemical plants, are disproportionately located in predominantly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous neighborhoods. Environmental injustices like these threaten just distribution of health itself, including access to health that is not dependent on having the right skin color, living in the right neighborhood, or making the right amount of money. Facilities that emit environmental toxins wrongly make people’s race, ethnicity, income, and neighborhood essential to who is allowed to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and thus, who is allowed to be healthy. This can be seen in the environmental crises in Louisiana; Mississippi; Houston, Texas; and Flint, Michigan. Since bioethics purports to concern itself with the principle of justice as applied to individuals and increasingly to populations, the field ought to concern itself more with environmental injustice. 

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