Toxics-Free Communities

PSR-LA’s Toxics-Free Communities program addresses the effects of toxic chemicals’ life cycle — from extraction, to production, to consumption, to disposal — in frontline communities. We work toward:

  • Promoting the precautionary principle as a way of moving toward safer alternatives and acting in a way that prevents harm;
  • Shaping a just transition from a fossil-fuel- and toxic-chemicals-based economy to one that is benign by design; and
  • Repairing the extractive economy to transform it into a regenerative one, centered in economic and environmental justice.
There are over 80,000 chemicals in use in U.S. markets, less than 10% of which have undergone even minimal screening by the EPA for risks they may pose to human health and the environment. Many industrial and agricultural chemicals are made and distributed throughout Southern California. Exposure to these chemicals is ubiquitous in our daily environments and in our bodies.

PSR-LA wants to make sure that green chemistry and clean production innovations are rooted in the needs of front-line communities and workers who suffer the greatest harm. From plastics to pesticides, we are working to reduce the use and exposure to toxic chemicals. PSR-LA works to fundamentally change the way we manufacture consumer products and how we regulate production facilities. We need innovations in green chemistry, clean production, and to build the capacity of our community partners to organize and advocate for policies that promote safer alternatives.

What are the problems?

  • Women are unknowingly exposed to hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. They serve as markers for environmental pollution through reduced fertility, irregular fetal development, and increased rates of cancers, among other illnesses.
  • Children are particularly vulnerable to all toxic chemical exposures because their organs, nervous systems, and immune systems are still developing, and their higher rates of cell division and lower body weight also increase their susceptibility to chemical exposure.
  • Studies demonstrate that even low blood-lead levels in children are harmful and have long-term health impacts, such as lowered IQ, shortened attention span, decreased coordination, learning disabilities, and neurological development problems.
  • Chemical pesticides can cause immediate poisonings that result in stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting and even deaths for tenants. Over the long-term, exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancers, birth defects, reproductive and developmental harm, damage to brain function, and disruption of the body’s hormone system — health impacts that can occur months or years after exposure.
  • More than 134 million Americans live in the danger zones surrounding 3,433 facilities in several industries that store or use highly hazardous chemicals.
  • From Maywood to Watts, there are multiple, well-documented accounts of discolored, smelly, and poor tasting water coming out of water taps. These accounts originate largely from communities identified as Disadvantaged Communities (DAC’s) according to the California Environmental Screening Method (CalEnviroScreen). In Watts, PSR-LA found that 70% of respondents have noticed water from their taps that is brown, rust-colored, dirty or murky. Additionally, only 12% of respondents feel safe drinking the water from their taps.
  • Outdated water systems and infrastructure affect DAC’s such as Watts and across South LA in terms of affordability, water quality, and ability to secure effective responses to community needs

How do these problems impact a person’s health?

  • Studies show that exposure to toxic chemicals increases the chance of cancer, hinders childhood development, negatively affects women’s reproductive systems and has long-term health effects on the exposed population. Oftentimes, disadvantaged communities are disproportionately exposed to toxics and do not have the resources to combat these issues.
  • People are exposed to toxic chemicals from everyday products. A report by the Environmental Working Group revealed that 1 in every 100 personal care products on the market contains known carcinogens.
  • The loss of a few IQ points in the population of children has marked impacts on educational needs and lowered earning potential. Lost lifetime earnings due to lead poisoning in California are estimated at over $10 billion per year.

What are the solutions?

  • PSR-LA provides education and resources on the links between the environment and reproductive health to women’s health, reproductive justice, and reproductive rights groups.
  • PSR-LA advocates for fundamental shifts in the ways in which we produce, regulate, and store hazardous chemicals in the United States. Our work to protect human health and the environment from the impacts of toxic chemicals centers around reform of the Toxic Substance Control Act.
  • We are working with national partners to ensure that the new EPA Chemicals Disasters Rule is effective in reducing the risks faced by residents by creating a precautionary approach that strongly enforces existing laws while promoting safer alternatives.
  • Support advocacy efforts that promote prevention, and support safer alternatives and stronger protections from chemical hazards. In particular we focus on protecting vulnerable populations such as workers, children, low income communities, and communities of color.
  • Increase capacity of communities to tackle water policy issues.

Our Partnerships

PSR-LA founded and co-chairs Californians for a Healthy & Green Economy (CHANGE), which is a diverse coalition working towards a toxics-free world economy centered on a complete just transition. The CHANGE Steering Committee consists of PSR-LA, Black Women for Wellness (BWW)Institute of Popular Education in Southern California (IDEPSCA), and Center for Race Poverty and the Environment (CRPE). Together, we bring a collective of experts in environmental health, environmental justice, reproductive health justice, and labor groups to reduce Californians’ most vulnerable communities’ and frontline workers’ exposures to toxic chemicals that can impact their health.

How to Get Involved

Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, attend an upcoming PSR-LA event, follow us on social media, or become a member of PSR-LA today. If you’re a health professional, you can also participate in our Health Ambassador Program.