News Brief

Reverends Preach Air Pollution Protections

The United Church of Christ says there is a moral urgency to tame toxic emissions from 100 plants located in populated areas.

100 red dots show the location of factories located mostly in the Midwest.

This map shows the location of the “Toxic 100” named in the report. 

Image: United Church of Christ
In a recent report, The United Church of Christ, a denomination of Protestant Christianity, shames 100 U.S. manufacturing facilities with highly toxic air pollution records, calling it a “moral crisis” that more than 112,500 children under the age of five live within three miles of the facilities’ perimeters. 

Of the 15,000 facilities that are required to report air pollution rates to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, just 100 are responsible for 39% of all toxic emissions nationwide, according to the report, which was prepared by the Environmental Integrity Project. The reason for the outsized impacts of these “super polluters” is that these facilities emit highly toxic chemicals, like ethylene oxide, hexavalent chromium, and nickel—all potent human carcinogens. So, while such facilities may blend in with the pack in terms of total emissions, they stand out when emissions are weighted for toxicity.

Emphasizing the need for social justice, the report also found that 98 of the 100 super polluters are sited in an area with higher percentages of at least one type of vulnerable population than the state average. Vulnerable populations are defined as:

  • people of color or Hispanics or Latinos,
  • low-income residents,
  • children under the age of five, or
  • adults over the age of sixty-four.

For example, an estimated 1,827 people live within a mile of the Dow Chemical Co. Plant in Freeport, Texas. Of those, 86% are people of color, Hispanic, or Latino; 75% percent are low-income individuals; and 10% are children under five—all exceeding state averages.

The last time the United Church of Christ issued a similar environmental report was in 1987, when it detailed the dumping of toxic waste in majority African American communities. It was again compelled to highlight environmental injustice given recent rollbacks of pollution regulations and low levels of enforcement. “As people of faith, we are not easily satisfied when the fate of our children and the planet is at stake,” state the Rev. Traci Blackmon and the Rev. Brooks Berndt in the opening of the report. They call for “reforming and implementing existing protections” and “bold policy prescriptions like the Green New Deal.”

Published May 4, 2020

Pearson, C. (2020, April 21). Reverends Preach Air Pollution Protections. Retrieved from

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