Week 5: An Inconvenient Truth – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 5: An Inconvenient Truth

48217: Life in Michigan’s most polluted ZIP code

One of the most memorable and haunting experiences I’ve had so far in this program was on a “toxic tour” where I witnessed children play mere yards away from a steel factory. A few politicians and I were shaken up seeing people going about their daily lives while inhaling a host of deadly chemicals, but the saddest part about this scene is that many people are unable to escape it.

The article above talks about the 48217 zip code in Detroit, which is the most polluted area code in the state of Michigan. This small area in the Southwest side of Detroit has several different industries including oil and steel plants that constantly pollute 48217 and the surrounding areas of Ecorse, River Rogue, and Dearborn. As expected, the residents of the community have been experiencing a myriad of adverse health effects including respiratory and neurological issues. According to my supervisor, the interns last yeat were in charge of creating a campaign that displayed how many households were affected by cancer by placing white crosses in their yards. She said that almost every house in the neighborhood had a white cross in front of it.

My supervisor also told me of a woman who complained about foul odors in her basement. The EPA was called and it turned out that dozens of deadly chemicals were seeping into her home through the sewer line. Like many others in her neighborhood, she was unable to move due to financial instability.

The most frustrating part is that governmental agencies fail to enforce any sort of accountability for the industries. However, I can see progress happening in the near future.

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