Social Justice and the Environmental Movement – Lead Issues in Detroit – UROP Summer Symposium 2021

Social Justice and the Environmental Movement – Lead Issues in Detroit

Noah Manuszak

Noah Manuszak

Pronouns: He/Him/His

UROP Fellowship: Biomedical and Life Sciences
Research Mentor(s): Lynn Carpenter, PhD
Research Mentor Institution/Department: College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Presentation Date: Wednesday, August 4th
Session: Session 3 (5pm-6:20pm EDT)
Breakout Room: Room 1
Presenter: 2

Event Link


Social Justice is an ongoing effort to ensure that people in society are given fair treatment regardless of race, economic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability status amongst other identities. While efforts have been ongoing to achieve justice, the movement for it is just beginning to gain recognition in various areas of society. Environmental racism is a term used to describe when a disproportionate amount of pollution emitting facilities are placed near a population with a large proportion of residents who are people of color. It can also occur when people of color do not receive the appropriate resources to deal with environmental hazards or when less media attention is directed towards people of color when they deal with pollution issues. One area of concern in this category can be seen with a particular issue in Detroit. Lead, a chemical element used commonly in construction, has been shown to be hazardous to the human body, but it is prevalent in areas that contain various older structures. Known to be a post-industrial city, Detroit has many older structures that contain lead in abundance. The population of the city has been declining over the past several decades due to the downturn of the manufacturing industry and poor economic circumstances. Primarily, it has been white people who have had the privilege and choice to move outside of the city and into the suburbs due to racially biased policy, which has left a large proportion of Detroit’s population to be made up of people of color. The City of Detroit has a large share of older housing, with much of it not seeing renovations. Many people who live in Detroit are in poverty or working class, meaning that they usually rent their housing and do not have the proper resources to upgrade it. Landlords who have money to fix the problems have not invested in their infrastructure. This causes lead issues to be more common. While the harmful effects of lead are known to be greater in the city of Detroit compared to outlying areas and the rest of the state of Michigan, relatively little has been done to give this issue proper attention and focus. This review paper seeks to give an outlook of the various harmful effects caused by lead within the city of Detroit. It will cover published works about the science of lead along with newspaper and journal articles about lead issues in Detroit. The most recent census data for the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan will be examined. The end of the paper will conclude with what next steps should be taken and effective approaches and recommendations for combating this important public health issue.

Authors: Noah Manuzak, Lynn Carpenter
Research Method: Survey Research

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