Investigating the mechanism behind environmental injustice around municipal landfill sites in Scotland
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Environmental injustice relates to the disproportionate distribution of environmental quality and risks across society. Whilst environmental injustice has been demonstrated in a number of studies the mechanism behind the phenomenon is generally not clear. Systematic bias in the siting process has often been blamed, but an alternative mechanism is possible: market dynamics caused by the presence of an undesirable land use may lead to increased deprivation in surrounding neighbourhoods. The study investigated environmental injustice in relation to exposure to municipal landfill sites in Scotland, and asked which came first, the deprivation or the landfill? GIS techniques were used to construct a wind-, emissions- and distance weighted model with which neighbourhood exposure to landfills could be classified. This gave the exposure classification a degree of realism not generally incorporated in similar studies. The research revealed clear evidence that deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland are disproportionately exposed to municipal landfills. Evidence for the mechanism by which this occurred was less clear, although greater evidence was found for the effect of post-siting market dynamics than for discriminatory siting. Results suggested that if landfills do in fact increase local deprivation the effects develop over a long period of time. The study also extended previous environmental justice work by investigating the relationship between exposure to a landfill and health outcomes. Exposure was found to be clearly related to an increased incidence of low birth weight births and other health outcomes, although causation cannot be concluded. Respiratory disease hospital admissions increased significantly with exposure level, suggesting a dose-response relationship.