Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | October 10, 2011

Justice for veterans and communities

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled that trichloroethelyne (TCE), a chemical used in solvents, and particularly metal degreasers, is a cancer causing chemical.

This is critical because TCE contamination is widespread,  particlarly in toxic waste sites. It is also a clear justice issue. According to the United Church of Christ (1987, 2007), toxic wates sites are disproportionately located in communities of color. In fact, Toxic Wastes and Race at 20 (released in 2007) highlighted the Holt family, an African American family. They drank water with TCE for twelve years, including many years after their white neighbors knew about the contamination and received bottled water. Today, many family members have cancer or have died from cancer.

Another source of TCE exposure is near some military bases. One case that has drawn much attention is Camp Lejeune military base. For thirty years, soliders, families, and others living on the base drank water contaminated with TCE. The site was finally closed in 1987. Today, some 71 Camp Lejeune veterans have been diagnosed with male breast cancer, and many others suffer rare forms of cancer, leukemia and other debilitating diseases. Children conceived, born and raised on the base are reported to have experienced high incidences of birth defects and developmental and childhood illnesses.

This ruling is very important for protecting human health, and the most vulnerable in particular. It also comes bittersweet as many people have suffered for a long time the impacts of TCE exposure. But it is sweet in that now many people who suspected that TCE might have caused their cancer and other health concerns now know this is true. Hopefully this knowledge can lead to just compensation for the victims of TCE contamination.

Access to clean drinking water should be a human right for all God’s people. This ruling is another victory towards restoring this right.

“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” -Amos 5:24


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