Solid and Hazardous Waste Disposal

It is estimated that 3-4 million children in the United States live within 1 mile of at least one hazardous waste site, which may or may not be a Superfund site. As of 2008, approximately 800,000 children lived within 1 mile of a Superfund site that had not been cleaned up or controlled since 1990. Although this is an improvement over past years, still too many children are at risk. In the United States, approximately 60% of African-Americans live in communities with uncontrolled toxic waste sites. Also, typically low-income minority communities are located close to chemical storage and disposal sites and in rural areas where toxic waste is generated. Large numbers of African-Americans live in communities close to toxic waste areas called brownfields. These wastes include chemical waste, waste from fossil fuel power plants and municipal incinerators, and solid waste landfills. Examples of these facilities can be found in North Carolina, Jersey City, New Jersey, and elsewhere. Schools have been found immediately adjacent to chemical plants, such as the one in Framingham, Massachusetts. Three of the five largest hazardous wastes landfills are located in predominantly African-American or Latino communities.

Love Canal was the ultimate example of how people, especially children, can be endangered for a lifetime because of exposure to hazardous chemicals. Approximately 100 homes and a school were built on the land of a former chemical company that buried its waste there. This industrial dump contained 82 different compounds, 11 of which were suspected of being carcinogens. Children playing at the school who were in the immediate area had burns on their hands and faces. There was a substantial number of birth defects and a high rate of miscarriages in the individuals living in the area. Eventually, the school was abandoned and 221 families were moved to new housing areas.

Another dangerous practice is the collection of hazardous and toxic wastes on school property by teachers and children. They are certainly not trained to deal with this type of activity and even though it is considered to be a public service and good for the community, the location of the storage of the hazardous waste at the local school is very poor practice. Spillage of the hazardous waste would not only constitute an immediate hazard but also a long-term hazard.

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