Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 232–248 | Cite as

Skewed Riskscapes and Environmental Injustice: A Case Study of Metropolitan St. Louis

  • Troy D. Abel


This article presents a case study of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) air pollution exposure risks across metropolitan St. Louis. The first section critically reviews environmental justice research and related barriers to environmental risk management. Second, the paper offers a conventional analysis of the spatial patterns of TRI facilities and their surrounding census block group demographics for metropolitan St. Louis. Third, the article describes the use of an exposure risk characterization for 319 manufacturers and their air releases of more than 126 toxic pollutants. This information could lead to more practical resolutions of urban environmental injustices. The analysis of TRIs across metropolitan St. Louis shows that minority and low-income residents were disproportionately closer to industrial pollution sources at nonrandom significance levels. Spatial concentrations of minority residents averaged nearly 40% within one kilometer of St. Louis TRI sites compared to 25% elsewhere. However, one-fifth of the region’s air pollution exposure risk over a decade was spatially concentrated among only six facilities on the southwestern border of East St. Louis. This disproportionate concentration of some of the greatest pollution risk would never be considered in most conventional environmental justice analyses. Not all pollution exposure risk is average, and the worst risks deserve more attention from environmental managers assessing and mitigating environmental injustices.


Environmental justice Cumulative risk analysis Exposure assessment Community-based participatory research 



This research is indebted to the support of National Science Foundation Grant 9976483, the Huxley College of the Environment’s Spatial Analysis Lab, comments from Mark Stephan, Margaret Fox, and an anonymous referee, and research assistance from Patricia Robert and Stefan Freelan. All errors remain attributable to the author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Huxley College of the Environment, Department of Environmental StudiesWestern Washington UniversityBellinghamUSA

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