Maryland Environmental Justice Screen Tool (MD EJSCREEN)

The Maryland Environmental Justice Screen Tool (MD EJSCREEN) assesses environmental justice risks among census tracts in the state of Maryland. Developed by the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health Laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, this tool combines the average pollution burden of a community with the average population demographic characteristics to produce an Environmental Justice (EJ) score.1  Stakeholders advocacy resulted in the inclusion of six indicators of EJ risk specific to Maryland: asthma, emergency room discharges, percent non-White, proximity to treatment, storage and disposal facilities, myocardial infarction discharges, low birth weight infants, and particulate matter. Through this tool, Maryland residents can be better informed of disparities in EJ risk among different communities and their associated health impacts.

Low-income communities of color are more likely to face environmental stressors such as exposure to pollution and proximity to hazardous waste sites. Screening tools that analyze environmental justice risks could allow residents to assess and visualize the distribution of risk factors within different communities and their corresponding effects on health.  Funded by the Town Creek Foundation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, MD EJSCREEN builds off of two previous tools used to assess environmental justice risks: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EJSCREEN tool and California’s CalEnviroScreen tool. Researchers created MD EJSCREEN in order to better reflect health concerns specific to Maryland. In order to reflect the concerns of Maryland community members, this tool was developed using feedback from stakeholders such as Prince George’s County Environmental Action Council (EAC) members, Port Towns residents, and the statewide Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities. 

The MD EJSCREEN uses Geographic Information System (GIS) and Public Participatory GIS mapping tools to calculate MD EJ scores for each census tract, which indicates the level of exposure to environmental justice risks. The Environmental Exposure and Environmental Effects Scores are calculated for the community, and then averaged to make up the Pollution Burden for the community. The Sensitive Populations and Socioeconomic Factors are averaged to calculate the Population Characteristics Score of the community. Then this Population Characteristic Score is multiplied against the Pollution Burden to calculate the final MD EJ Score, reported as a percentile value 0 to 1 based on how it compares to other census tracts. 

Bladensburg, Maryland Case Study

University of Maryland researchers have demonstrated the application of the MD EJSCREEN through a case study on Bladensburg, Maryland, a town in Prince George’s County. The Bladensburg population is primarily Black (62.7%) and Latinx (33.0%), with 20.1% of the community members living below the federal poverty line. This overburdened community faces several environmental justice concerns including air pollution from a nearby concrete plant and heavy traffic. In analyzing the environmental justice of Bladensburg with MD EJSCREEN, the researchers found that Bladensburg has an EJ score higher than 99% of the census tracts in Prince George’s County, indicating a higher prevalence of environmental hazards in the region.

Furthermore, it was determined that Bladensburg residents are at a higher risk of developing cancer due to air pollution than 90–100% of the census tracts in the state or county.

 

Publication Date: January 2019

Related Organizations:

  • University of Maryland

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  • Mapping tool

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