BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University's Janet McCabe, a professor of practice at the McKinney School of Law, and Elizabeth Grennan Browning, an IU environmental historian fellow, will testify at a Feb. 27 public briefing on lead exposure in Indiana.
The briefing, to be held at the Event Center at Ivy Technical Community College in Indianapolis, is being convened by the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to examine challenges facing diverse communities and their possible disproportionate exposure to toxic lead in the state. Both McCabe and Browning are affiliated with the Environmental Resilience Institute, founded as part of IU's Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge initiative.
McCabe, ERI’s director and a former assistant administrator with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Browning will both be testifying as part of the 10:45 a.m. panel.
“Of all the environmental health threats facing our communities, this one is perhaps the most heartbreaking, as it affects the most vulnerable among us—the children who are in our care and need our protection,” McCabe said. “The biggest barriers to protecting Indiana’s children from lead poisoning are a lack of public funding for state and local health department programs and a system that is set up to be reactive rather than proactive. We’ve known the dangers of lead for a long time and yet the state has not made addressing it a priority.”
Browning, whose research focuses on the histories of environmental health and environmental justice in the Midwest, said Indiana has a long history of lead-contaminated soil due to industry.
In her testimony Browning tells the story of an East Chicago, Ind. Superfund site to illustrate how this history disproportionately impacts minorities. In the summer of 2016, residents of an East Chicago public housing development were evacuated due to high lead levels and not allowed to return. The housing complex was built on land formerly occupied by a lead smelter.
“When evaluating lead poisoning crises around the nation, it is important to examine the historical legacies of structural racism, including redlining, urban renewal’s displacement of minority populations in urban centers, and the concentration of low-income, minority populations near toxic dump sites and industries,” Browning said. “This tendency for industry to site environmental hazards in lower-income minority communities remains a challenge for communities like East Chicago’s West Calumet neighborhood which continues to uncover toxic waste from its long history of industrial contamination.”
Testimony from McCabe, Browning, and others will contribute to findings and recommendations the Indiana committee will make in a report to the U.S. Commission.
To speak with McCabe or Browning, contact ERI communications manager Jonathan Hines, firstname.lastname@example.org, 812-856-3610.
About Prepared for Environmental Change
The Indiana University Prepared for Environmental Change Grand initiative brings together a broad, bipartisan coalition of government, business, nonprofit and community leaders to help Indiana better prepare for the challenges that environmental changes bring to our economy, health and livelihood. Announced in May 2017, Prepared for Environmental Change is working to deliver tailored and actionable solutions to communities across the state of Indiana.