Philadelphia Toxic Community Risk Assessment

Document Type


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Committee Chair:

Al Crawford, PhD, Thomas Jefferson University


The purpose of this study is to determine if there are statistically significant relationships between the number of industrial facilities within a census tract and the health and socio-economic status of that same census tract’s population. The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory(TRI) is a database of the usage, storage, and release of toxic chemicals by industrial facilities meeting certain criteria based on their industry sector, size, and chemical usage. There have been many examples of TRI data being used to discover relationships between TRI facilities/chemicals and negative health outcomes in local communities. However, the literature indicates a limitation of TRI in that many smaller facilities are able to slip through the criteria for reporting, even though they pose an environmental hazard to their surrounding communities. In order to evaluate the risk to local communities of these facilities that slip through the TRI reporting criteria, a database was created of all the facilities in Philadelphia that met the industry sector criteria but were still not required to report. Philadelphia’s census tracts were then grouped into levels of Low, Medium, and High based upon the number of facilities from each industry sector within them. SPSS was used to determine if there were any statistically significant relationships between the number of facilities in a census tract and the health and socio-economic status of that tract’s population. The results show that, at the ecological level, there are statistically significant negative associations between increases in the number of facilities and decreases in health status for the industrial sectors of Repair and Maintenance, Chemical Manufacturing, Fabricated Metal Production, and Paper Manufacturing. This indicates the need for closer examination of these relationships, and the potential for policy changes, especially those surrounding zoning.

Presentation: 18 minutes