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State Rep. Donna Bullock pointed out the effects of oil and natural gas industry pollutants on Black families during a recent news conference coordinated by a women’s group that champions clean air. — Submitted photo

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., vice chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, spoke at a news conference hosted by Moms Clean Air Force and Defend Our Future to discuss how toxins from the oil and gas industry disproportionately impact African-American families throughout Pennsylvania.

According to a November 2017 report co-authored by the Clean Air Task Force and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, African-Americans are exposed to 38 percent more polluted air than their white counterparts and are 75 percent more likely than the average American to live in a fence-line community. Fence-line communities are communities that neighbor a company, industrial or service facility, and are directly impacted by the facility’s operation, which includes noise, door traffic, odor and chemical emissions.

“The recent report authored by the Clean Air Task Force and the NAACP only confirms what we already know: the oil and gas industry is making profits at the expense of the health and well-being of historically marginalized communities,” Bullock said. “Many fence-line communities consist of low-income residents who have faced a history of discrimination on the bases of race, gender, class and disability. These companies are able burden vulnerable communities, many which have low rates of health insurance, with the deadly consequences from air pollution.”

The report shows that nearly 80,000 African-Americans in Pennsylvania live within a half-mile radius of oil and gas facilities. As a result, countless African-American families face a higher risk of being exposed to hazardous pollutants that can cause asthma, cancer and other devastating health impacts.

Philadelphia Energy Solution’s fossil fuel refinery in South Philadelphia is the largest fossil fuel refinery on the East Coast and one of the oldest in the world. The refinery is responsible for 72 percent of the toxic air emissions throughout Philadelphia. The report estimates that in Philadelphia, 2,887 childhood asthma attacks and 2,104 lost school days among African-American children are caused by natural gas pollution.

“With the childhood asthma rate in our city being twice the national average, it’s time for action on our part as legislators,” Bullock added.

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