Category Archives: Public Health and Community Development

Dallas’ Renaissance Plan: A Response to the Second Wave of Environmental Justice

Dallas is the seventh largest city in the United States with a population exceeding 1.1 million citizens in the year 2000. Dallas is the fourth largest park system in the United States. The second wave of the environmental justice movement is a concept concerned with urban design, public health, and availability of outdoor physical activities. The upgrade to the 21,526 acres of parkland will amplify the quality of and access to outdoor recreation. The Dallas Park and Recreation Department’s “Renaissance Plan” is a response to  the increased demand of the citizens for new and expanded park facilities, recreation programs, open space areas, and unique recreational amenities. Physical activity is one of the health indicators for Healthy People 2010, and responding to these demands is a step forward of meeting its goals.  Dallas’ wide spectrum of park facilities will provide physical activities that will have positive health outcome to Dallas residents including the low-income population of the Dallas County and contiguous counties. Recognition of environmental exposure affecting economically and politically disadvantaged members of the community gave birth to the first wave of environmental justice movement. In addition to health problems related to environmental exposures, environmental justice (EJ) also cover disparities in physical activity, dietary habits, and obesity among different populations. Disparities on the access of public facilities and resources for physical activity (PA) is an EJ issue that has a negative impact on health among low-income and racial/ethnic minorities (Labilles, 2013). The 2007 cross-sectional study of Taylor et al. suggest an association between disproportionate low access to parks and recreation services (PRS) and other activity-friendly environments in low-income and racial/ethnic minority communities.  The prevalence of lower levels of PA and higher rates of obesity was observed in the minority population, which is a direct outcome of the prevalence of lower levels of PA. These differences violate the fair treatment principle necessary for environmental justice.

The treatment of health conditions associated with physical inactivity such as obesity poses an economic cost of at least $117 billion each year. Physical inactivity contributes to many physical and mental health problems.  The reported 200,000-deaths per year in the US is attributed to physical inactivity, and data from surveillance system indicate that people from some racial/ethnic minority groups experience disproportionately higher rates of chronic diseases associated with physical inactivity. Taylor, Poston, Jones & Kraft (2006) findings, provided preliminary evidence for the hypothesis that socioeconomic status disparities in overweight and obesity are related to differences in environmental characteristics. However, most of the studies had encountered epidemiologic “black box” problem, making it impossible to determine which characteristics of the environment (e.g., density of food service outlets or physical activity resources) may be most important (Labilles, 2013). Ellaway et al. found that body-mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and prevalence of obesity, and greater obesity risk is associated with low area or neighborhood socio-economic status.

References

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2000.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2000.

Ellaway A, Anderson A, Macintyre S. Does area of residence affect body size and shape? Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 1997; 21:304-308.

Labilles, U. (2013). Environment Matters: The Disproportionate Burden of Environmental Challenges. PUBH 8115-1 Environmental Health Spring Qtr. Minneapolis: Walden University.

Taylor, W., Floyd, M., Whitt-Glover, M. & Brooks, J. (2007).  Environmental Justice: A Framework for Collaboration between the Public Health and Parks and Recreation Fields to Study Disparities in Physical Activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 4, supp 1, s50-s63.

US Dept of Health and Human Services. Physical activity and health: A report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.

US Dept of Health and Human Services. Healthy People 2010: With understanding and improving health and objectives for improving health (2nd ed). Washington: US Govt Printing Office; 2000.

Wolf AM, Manson JE, Colditz GA. The economic impact of overweight, obesity, and weight loss. In: Eckel R, ed. Obesity Mechanisms and Clinical Management. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins; 2002.

 

 

A Summer Phenomenon

For 26 days in 2011, every place in Texas showed higher concentrations of lung-damaging ozone than allowed by federal air-quality standards, especially in Dallas. The federal standard set in 2008 is 75 parts per billion. The spike in ozone which is particularly a summer phenomenon is exacerbated by trucks carrying drilling materials that emit nitrogen oxides, and natural gas escaping from pipelines or storage tanks that emit volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Known ozone “precursors” such as nitrogen oxides and VOCs can react with each other to form ozone when aided by sunlight. The most difficult environmental issue North Central Texas face today is air quality. Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) region meets the standard for five of six criteria air pollutants defined by the EPA. The six pollutants are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxides, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide. The only air pollutant for which DFW do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard is the ozone. In hot summers, combination of nitrogen dioxides and VOCs and concentrations of traffic and industry, Dallas is an ideal incubator for the creation of ground-level ozone.

Discussion

Under the Clean Air Act, ozone pollution has long been regulated because of its tremendous hazards to the public. Under the Clean Air Act, ozone poses tremendous hazards to the public health and the environment. High ozone levels lead to respiratory distress and disorders; decreased lung function; increases in the emergency room visits and sick days. To address the serious problem of ozone, the Clean Air Act provides a multi-step process for ensuring that all areas of the country achieve acceptable ozone levels. EPA establish nationwide air quality standards for ozone (called National Ambient Air Quality Standards), which are required to be strong enough to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. The next step, EPA designate areas of the country that meet the standards, and those who do not. The last step, requiring states to submit plans for achieving and maintaining compliance with EPA’s ozone standards — with especially strict requirements for areas that currently do not meet the standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its ozone air quality standards in March 2008. The EPA towards the end of 2012 promised the DFW residents for stronger protections against the harmful public health and environmental impacts of ground-level ozone. The agency announced on January 7, 2012 about its determination that Wise County, Texas contributes to high ozone levels in nearby Dallas-Fort Worth. This action required polluters in Wise County  to do their fair share to reduce ozone levels in Dallas-Fort Worth. Wise County was included in the DFW ozone designation due in large part to the emissions of nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds from a recent boom in oil and gas production in the area. According to the Technical Support Document (TSD), the final area designations in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) area for the 2008 ozone national ambient air quality standards are based on several factors and indicators. The population density and degree of urbanization were analyzed. TSD stated: EPA evaluated the population and vehicle use characteristics and trends of the area as indicators of the probable location and magnitude of non-point source emissions. These include ozone precursor emissions from on-road and off-road vehicles and engines, consumer products, residential fuel combustion, and consumer services. Areas of dense population or commercial development are an indicator of area source and mobile source NO2 and VOC emissions that may contribute to ozone formation that contributes to nonattainment in the area. Rapid growth in population or vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in a county on the urban perimeter signifies increasing integration with the core urban area and indicates that it may be appropriate to include such perimeter area(s) as part of the nonattainment area.

Conclusion

It is very important to recognize the effect of ozone to a population, especially adults and children who are already had chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. Exposure may compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. Bell et al. (2004) a multisite time-series study of 95 large US urban communities throughout a 14-year period  found that widespread pollutant such as ozone adversely affects public health.

References

Area Designations for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/airquality/ozonepollution/designations/2008standards/documents/R6_DFW_TSD_Final.pdf

Bell, M., McDermott, A., Zeger, S., Samet, J. & Dominici, F. (2004). Ozone and Short-term Mortality in 95 US Urban Communities, 1987-2000. JAMA;292(19):2372-2378. doi:10.1001/jama.292.19.2372.

Dallas Fort-Worth Breathes Easier Following EPA’s Decision … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2013/01/16/dallas-fort-worth-breathes-easier-following-epas-decision-on-wise-county-ozone-petitions/

Green Dallas…building a greener city! (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.greendallas.net/air_quality.html

Labilles, U. (2013). Obstacles of Disease Surveillance Interoperability: A Challenge to Public Health. (Unpublished,  PUBH-8115-1/HUMN-8115-1-Soc Behave Cultural Fact in Public Health. 2013 Spring Qtr. WK7Disc) Walden University, Minneapolis.