Social Determinants of Health in Environmental Justice Communities: Examining Cumulative Risk in Terms of Environmental Exposures and Social Determinants of Health

John Prochaska, Alexandra B. Nolen, Hilton Kelley, Ken Sexton, Stephen H. Linder, John Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


Residents of environmental justice (EJ) communities may bear a disproportionate burden of environmental health risk, and often face additional burdens from social determinants of health. Accounting for cumulative risk should include measures of risk from both environmental sources and social determinants. This study sought to better understand cumulative health risk from both social and environmental sources in a disadvantaged community in Texas. Key outcomes were determining what data are currently available for this assessment, clarifying data needs, identifying data gaps, and considering how those gaps could be filled. Analyses suggested that the traditionally defined EJ community in Port Arthur may have a lower environmental risk from air toxics than the rest of the City of Port Arthur (although the entire city has a higher risk than the average for the state), but may have a larger burden from social determinants of health. However, the results should be interpreted in light of the availability of data, the definitions of community boundaries, and the areal unit utilized. Continued focus on environmental justice communities and the cumulative risks faced by their residents is critical to protecting these residents and, ultimately, moving toward a more equitable distribution and acceptable level of risk throughout society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)980-994
Number of pages15
JournalHuman and Ecological Risk Assessment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014



  • cumulative risk
  • environmental justice
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modeling
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Pollution

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