Health disparities across the income spectrum in the United States remain a significant public health problem. One focus of the environmental justice (EJ) movement has been on how physical and social environments contribute to unfavorable health outcomes among poor communities of color.
The emphasis of EJ has historically been on sources of pollution found outdoors, such as that caused by industry or traffic. Although these outdoor sources can influence health, so too can sources originating indoors.
Over the last century, understanding the connections between housing and health has expanded to include a broad list of indoor pollutants associated with illness and death, such as radon, asbestos, lead, pest and pet allergens, pesticides, secondhand smoke, and chemicals in consumer products. Although the linkage between housing and health has been firmly established, it has occurred largely outside of the EJ movement.
To inform strategies that will lead to healthy housing, Gary Adamkiewicz, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health and Exposure Disparities at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and his colleagues developed a framework to identify the main drivers of indoor environment quality, which they explore in Moving Environmental Justice Indoors: Understanding Structural Influences on Residential Exposure Patterns in Low-Income Communities. Although exposure to indoor pollutants may be observed in multiple settings, this paper focuses on urban, multifamily households to highlight some general principles and the unique challenges in these environments.
Adamkiewicz G, Zota AR, Fabian MP, Chahine T, Julien R, Spengler JD, Levy JI. Moving environmental justice indoors: understanding structural influences on residential exposure patterns in low-income communities. American Journal of Public Health. 2011 December; 101 (Suppl 1): S238-S245.